Frequently Asked Questions About Total Knee Replacement

Frequently Asked Questions About Total Knee Surgery

The Joint Institute at Community Medical Center

Patients have asked many questions about total knee replacement.

Below is a list of the most frequently asked questions along with their answers. If there are any other questions that you need answered, please ask your surgeon or the Total Joint Team. We want you to be completely informed about this procedure.

What is osteoarthritis and why does my knee hurt?

Joint cartilage is a tough, smooth tissue the covers the end of the bones where joints are located. It helps cushion the bones during movement, and because it is smooth and slippery, it allows for motion with minimal friction. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a wear and tear condition that destroys join cartilage. Sometimes as the result of trauma, repetitive movement, or for no apparent reason, the cartilage wears down, exposing bone ends. This can occur quickly over months or may take years to occur. Cartilage destruction can result in painful bone-on-bone contact, along with swelling and loss of motion. Osteoarthritis usually occurs later in life and may affect only one joint or many joints.

What is total knee replacement?

A total knee replacement is really a bone and cartilage replacement with an artificial surface. The knee itself is not replaced as commonly thought, but rather an implant is inserted on the bone ends. This is done with a metal alloy in the femur (thigh bone) and plastic spacer on the tibia (lower leg bone) and patella (knee cap). This creates a new, smooth cushion and functioning joint that can reduce or eliminate pain.

What are the results of total knee replacement?

Results will vary depending on the quality of the surrounding tissue, the severity of the arthritis at the time of surgery, the patient’s activity level, and the patient’s adherence to the doctor’s orders.

When should I have this type of surgery?

Your orthopedic surgeon will decide if you are a candidate for the surgery. The decision will be based on your history, exam, x-rays, and response to conservative treatment.

Am I too old for this surgery?

Age is generally not an issue if you are in reasonable health and have the desire to continue living a productive, active life. You may be asked to see your personal physician for his/her opinion about your general health and readiness for surgery.

How long will my new knee last?

All implants have a limited life expectancy depending on the individual’s age, weight, activity level, and other medical
condition(s). A total joint implant’s longevity will vary in every patient. It is important to remember that and implant is a medical device subject to wear that may lead to mechanical failure. While it is important to follow all of your surgeon’s recommendations after surgery, there is no guarantee that you particular implant will last for any specific length of time.

Why might I require a revision?

Just as your original joint wears out, a joint replacement will wear over time as well. The most common reason for revision is loosening of the artificial surface from the bone. Wearing of the plastic spacer may also result in the need for a new spacer. Your surgeon will explain the possible complications associated with a total knee replacement.

What are the major risks?

Most surgeries go well, without any complications. Infection and blood clots are two serious complications. To avoid these complications, your surgeon may use antibiotics and blood thinners. Surgeons also take special precautions in the operating room to reduce the risk of infections.

Should I exercise before the surgery?

Yes, you should consult your surgeon and physical therapist about the exercise appropriate for you. The more prepared you are for surgery the better the potential recovery. Strengthening your entire body may help you perform daily activities after your knee surgery.

Will I need blood?

You may need blood after the surgery. You may use the community blood supply, have your relatives donate for you or donate you own blood, if you are able.

How long will I be incapacitated?

You will probably stay in bed the day of your surgery. However, the next morning patients will get up, sit in a chair or recliner, and should be walking with a walker or crutches later that day. This program stresses early, extensive physical activity to help you prepare to go home.

How long will I be in the hospital?

Most knee patients will be hospitalized for three days after surgery. There are several goals that must be achieved before discharge.

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