What are Knee Replacements?
Knee arthroplasty or total knee replacement is a surgical procedure that involves resurfacing a damaged knee. Knee prostheses are placed as caps on the ends of the bones that form the knee joint and the kneecap. The prostheses function to replace the portion of the knee that is damaged, restore proper motion and stop knee pain caused by disease or injury.
Why Knee Surgery Could Be Needed
Knee replacement surgery may be recommended for people who have degenerative joint diseases, such as osteoarthritis, which causes the joint cartilage and adjacent bones in the knees to break down. Knee surgery can also be recommended for rheumatoid arthritis, which creates inflammation and excessive synovial fluid that causes pain and stiffness. Another type of arthritis that can call for a knee replacement is post-traumatic arthritis. This type of arthritis usually occurs as a result of sudden impact or trauma to the knee and causes damage to the knee’s cartilage.
Beyond the various types of arthritis that can lead a patient to seek orthopedic care, there are a range of injuries that can call for knee replacement surgery such as fractures or tears in cartilage and ligaments leading to irreversible knee joint damage.
Knee Surgery: Preparation and Procedure
Total knee replacement surgery seriously impacts your everyday activities during recovery, so it’s important to know how to prepare before the procedure to ensure proper healing and avoid further injury.
How to Prepare for the Operation
- Recovery from the procedure can take several weeks and usually requires crutches or a walker while healing, which you should arrange for prior to surgery.
- You’ll want to plan for someone to give you a ride home from the ambulatory surgery center or hospital.
- Make sure someone who can help with everyday tasks like bathing and cooking will be around your home.
- Prepare your living space to avoid injury and make it more accessible while you are recovering. Some things you can do include:
- Make a space on one floor for living as you’ll want to avoid stairs
- If you must use stairs, install handrails
- Have safety bars in the shower
- Have a footstool to keep the leg elevated while sitting
- Install a toilet-seat riser with arms
- Have a shower chair or bench
- Roll up rugs that slide
- To prevent tripping, move objects like cords, toys or other clutter from walkways in the home
Knee Arthroplasty Procedure
The operation requires patients to go under anesthesia, whether that is general or spinal is primarily up to the patient and their physician. General anesthesia will make you unconscious while spinal anesthesia will leave you numb from the waist down. You’ll also be given an intravenous antibiotic before the surgery to help prevent post-surgical infection and a nerve block around the knee to keep it numb.
During the procedure, your knee will be bent to expose the surface of the knee joint. After making a 6 to 10-inch long incision, the orthopedic surgeon will move aside your kneecap and cut away the damaged portions of the joint before replacing them with metal or plastic parts.
Most patients go home the same day as surgery, depending on their care needs. You’ll be encouraged to move both your foot and ankle to keep blood flow to your leg and prevent blood clots. You may be given blood thinners as well, along with a support hose or compression boots to protect against swelling and clotting after surgery. During recovery, your doctor will likely recommend protocols that suit your personal needs. They will also suggest a physical therapist to show you how to exercise and strengthen your new knee.