Total Knee Replacement

Total knee replacement surgery is done to replace damaged or diseased bone in your knee with artificial parts.

Your knee joint is where three bones meet. These are your thigh bone, or femur; your kneecap, or patella; and your shin bone, or tibia. The ends of each bone are covered by a slick, flexible tissue called cartilage. Your knee joint is surrounded by a capsule of other tissue that is filled with fluid. Two cartilage cushions called menisci sit between your bones.

Osteoarthritis causes your cartilage and menisci to wear down over time. When this happens, bony growths called bone spurs may form. This can cause pain and inflammation, and can limit the motion of your knee.

Osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear. It can also be caused by past injuries. Weight-bearing joints, such as your knee, are more likely to get osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis, or R-A, can also occur in your knee. This kind of arthritis happens when the body's own cells attack the lining of your joints. The lining then becomes inflamed, painful, and swollen.

Knee replacement surgery may be recommended when your arthritis keeps you from your daily activities or sleep. It may also be recommended if you have weakness or loss of motion because of arthritis. This is especially true if your arthritis hasn't improved with other treatments.

Knee replacement is also used to treat severe knee injuries.

Before the Procedure

Your provider will explain what happens during knee replacement surgery. He or she will also talk with you about any risks or complications that may happen. This is the time to ask any questions you have. You'll be asked to sign a consent form that gives your health care provider permission to do the surgery. Read the form carefully and ask questions if anything is not clear.

Your provider will also give you instructions about how to prepare for your surgery. Don't eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your surgery.

If you're a woman, be sure to tell your health care provider if you are pregnant, or might be pregnant. Tell your health care provider about all of the medications and supplements you take, if you have any allergies and ask your doctor ahead of time if there are any medications you should stop taking before your surgery.

Before going to the hospital, you should prepare your home. Make sure things you might need are within easy reach. Set up a location to rest. Remove throw rugs and other tripping hazards. Stock up on food and supplies. And, ask someone you trust to help you with tasks such as bathing, dressing, and laundry for a few weeks.

What to Expect

During knee replacement surgery, the surgeon makes a cut or incision along the front of your knee to reach your joint. The surgeon removes the damaged part of your femur, tibia, and patella.  A metal or ceramic cap is placed on the end of your femur. A metal cap is placed on the top of your tibia. Bone cement may be used to hold them in place. A slick, plastic cushion is placed in between the caps. Plastic may also be placed on the back of your patella to help it move easily. The surgeon closes the incision and puts a bandage on it.

Surgery will take about two hours. Your leg may be put on a platform called a continuous passive motion machine. It moves your knee slowly and keeps it elevated. This reduces swelling and stiffness and keeps your blood moving.

You'll receive antibiotics to prevent infection and medication to ease your pain. You might also receive medications to prevent blood clots.

After the Procedure

After surgery, you'll work with a physical therapist to help you get back on your feet right away. You'll need to continue your rehabilitation for several weeks after your surgery.You may need crutches or a walker for a time.

Things to Remember

Total knee replacements can treat arthritis or severe knee injuries.
During surgery, parts of your femur, tibia, and patella are replaced. 
Physical therapy is an important part of your recovery.

What We Have Learned

Total knee replacement surgery is often used to treat arthritis. True or False? The answer is true. It is also used to treat severe knee injuries.

It's important not to move your leg for several days after your surgery. True or False? The answer is false. After surgery, a physical therapist will help you get back on your feet right away.