Knee replacement, also called arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure to replace a knee damaged by disease or injury.
Recovery may take several weeks to months depending on your overall health.
Total Knee Replacement
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This is done if you have chronic pain and stiffness in the knee joint that limits activities.
Knee replacement surgery is most often done to: Ease knee pain and disability due to
arthritis or previous severe knee injuryCorrect a knee deformity
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like: InfectionExcess bleedingSwellingBlood clotsChronic weakness in knee jointWorsening or unchanged pain
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include: SmokingPoor nutritionHistory of blood clotsLong-term illnessUse of certain medications
Your doctor will likely do the following: Physical examBlood testsX-rayMRI scan
to get images of the internal structure of the knee
Before surgery, you will need to: Arrange for a ride home.Arrange for help at home while you recover.Talk to your doctor about any allergies you have.Ask your doctor about assist devices you will need.If you are overweight, lose weight. This will help to decrease the amount of stress on your new joint.Install safety equipment in the bathroom, shower, and on the stairs.Prepare a bedroom on the first floor if possible. Climbing stairs will be difficult at first.
Talk to your doctor about any medications, herbs, or supplements you are taking. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your surgery, unless told otherwise by your doctor.
Anesthesia will keep you pain-free and comfortable during the procedure. General anesthesia will keep you asleep during the procedure. Regional anesthesia will number the lower part of the body.
A cut will be made in your skin. The damaged cartilage and bone will be removed. The remaining bone will be prepared to receive the new joint made from material such as plastic and metal. The artificial joint will be placed in the proper position. It may be cemented within the bone. The incision will be closed with staples. A drain will be left in to allow extra fluid to flow out.
Anesthesia will block pain during the procedure. You will have pain after the procedure. Ask your doctor about medication to help manage pain.
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is 3-4 days. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications arise.
Right after the procedure, you will be taken to recovery and monitored closely. The staff may give you: Pain medicationAntibiotics to prevent infectionMedication that prevents blood clots
While you are recovering at the hospital, you may need to use a continuous passive motion machine, which is designed to: Slowly move your kneeRestore functionDecrease swellingImprove circulation
During your recovery, you will need to: Move your foot and ankle to increase blood flow back to your heart.Wear support stockings. These may help prevent blood clots from forming in your legs.Work with a physical therapist. You may start the day after surgery. You will learn safe ways to move your knee and support your weight.
You will learn how to use a
crutches, or other support devices.
To help ensure a smooth recovery at home, take these steps: Start working with a physical therapist once you are instructed to. The therapist will focus on balance, range-of-motion, and strength training.Maintain a healthy weight after surgery.
Within 6 weeks, you should be able to go back to light activities and driving. You may feel a soft clicking in the joint when walking or bending. Continue to work with the physical therapist. Water-based exercises may help to improve joint pain, swelling around the knee, and range of motion.
Antibiotics may be needed before certain dental procedures or surgeries now that you have an artificial joint. This will prevent possible infections from entering the bloodstream. Make sure to let the dentist or doctor know that you have an artificial joint.
Call your doctor if any of the following occurs: Signs of infection, including fever and chillsRedness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision siteSwelling, redness, or pain in your legs, calves, or feetPain that you cannot control with the medications you have been givenNausea and vomitingCough, shortness of breath, or chest painA chalky white, blue, or black appearance in your leg, foot, or toesNumbness or tingling in your leg, foot, or toesPain, burning, urgency, frequency of urination, or persistent bleeding in the urine
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Knee replacement surgery procedure. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Available at:
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/orthopaedic/knee_replacement_surgery_procedure_92,P07673/. Accessed March 4, 2015.
Total knee arthroplasty. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 29, 2015. Accessed March 4, 2015.
Total knee replacement.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00389. Updated December 2011. Accessed March 4, 2015.
4/16/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Harmer AR, Naylor JM, Crosbie J, Russell T. Land-based versus water-based rehabilitation following total knee replacement: a randomized, single-blind trial.
6/2/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Am J Med.
9/16/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Abdallah FW, Chan VW, et al. The analgesic effects of proximal, distal, or no sciatic nerve block on posterior knee pain after total knee arthroplasty: a double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Anesthesiology. 2014 Aug 5. [Epub ahead of print].
Last reviewed March 2015 by Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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