Knee replacement surgery or more commonly known as total knee arthroplasty is one of the most common surgical procedures, which involves relieving of pain and restoring normal function in the critically ailing knee joint. The surgery involves resurfacing a knee which has either been damaged by age related arthritis or by injury. The doctor separates the damaged cartilage and bone defects from the thighbone, shinbone and kneecap and replaces it with an imitation joint, made of top-quality metal and plastic, also known as prosthesis.

A knee replacement surgery is appropriate for people that suffer from acute or chronic pain in knee joints, due to damage, weakening, wear-tear, injury, etc. of the bone and cartilage of the joint. A problematic knee joint makes it extremely difficult to make any movement such as climbing stairs, walking, sitting cross-legged or squatting. A person experiencing problems with knee functioning is advised medications and physical therapy before being recommended a total knee replacement surgery. In fact, efforts are made to restore mobility and functionality through the usage of walkers, sticks, etc.

A knew replacement surgery is a safe, effective and non-complicated procedure that helps a person to gain the functionality and relieving pain of the problematic knee joint and resume normal activity by correcting the leg deformity. Moreover, with developments in medical technology and procedures, knee replacement surgery is performed with precision and hence, it is one of the safest surgical procedures today.

However, a critical assessment of the need for a knee replacement surgery must be done before making a final decision. All alternative courses of treatment – including medications, physiotherapy, non-invasive medical aids – should be tapped while analyzing the need for a knee replacement surgery. An evaluation of the knee’s motion ability, stability, strength, flexibility, structure, etc. will be conducted by the orthopaedic surgeon. Before planning the surgery, the surgeon may also conduct some tests to gain deeper insights such as X-rays, CT-scans or MRI to assess the damage of the present condition. Moreover, the selection of prostheses and surgical method will be made as per the patient’s age, weight, physical activeness, general health and most importantly the present and the expected future form and shape of the knee.

Reason for a knee replacement surgery

The most important reason for undertaking a knee replacement surgery is to relieve the pain and restore the normal functionality and movement of the knee, which has been hampered due to osteoarthritis because of increasing age, any trauma, injury etc. A chronic knee problem can cause extreme difficulty in performing even simple activities such as walking, sitting, lying down, climbing stairs, getting up and sitting back, etc.

Types of arthritis affecting the knee 

Osteoarthritis: Degenerative arthritis that is prominent in people in the middle age or beyond; this type of arthritis breaks down the cartilage of the knee joint.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: This type of arthritis is caused when the joints synovial membrane having chronic inflammation leading to accumulation of excess synovial fluid, causing extreme pain and stiffness in the knee joint.

Traumatic arthritis: Traumatic arthritis is caused because of injury or trauma to the knee joint leading to excessive pain or damage.

Risks involved in knee replacement surgery

A knee replacement surgery is considered one of the safest surgical procedures in the medical world today and hence, is characterized with barely any risks apart from the general risks that are linked to any normal surgery. Some of the risks involved in knee replacement or in any other orthopaedic surgery are:

  • Blood clots in legs or lungs
  • Heart failure or heart attack
  • Infection
  • Damage of nerves or blood vessels
  • Implant troubles
  • Extensive pain even after surgery

Two other important risks that specifically pertain to knee replacement surgery are:

  • A postoperative infection characterized by symptoms such as high fever, chills, swelling, seepage from the surgical site, tenderness, extreme joint pain, and redness.
  • Wear out of the artificial joint put in place of the original knee joint. This can lead to a revision replacement surgery. However, this is not experienced immediately after the surgery but instead it occurs over a long period of time (15-20 yrs.) due to wear-tear of the knee joint because of excessive and rigorous physical activity. 

Preparation of the surgery

A knee replacement surgery is a critical surgery and the pre-operative preparation, consultations and tests usually begins few days before and need to be conducted carefully to ensure complete success. 

Pre-operative tests: A doctor will conduct several tests to assess the blood count, existing blood clots, and heart health (through echocardiography (2D echo)).

Food and medications: You would be advised to refrain from consuming specific medications and supplements. And on the day of the surgery, you will be asked not to eat anything post-midnight. 

Post-surgery preparations: After the knee replacement surgery, the patient would need walker to walk around or in some cases, may be advised complete bed rest for a time period. Hence, all arrangements need to be made after considerable consideration with the doctor to ensure speedy and effective recovery. Also, little things – such as safety bars, handrail for support in the washroom, the elevation of legs while sitting, sitting while bathing, placing a higher toilet seat, etc. – should be prepared for in advance. 

Recovery post a knee replacement surgery

A knee replacement surgery is a major surgical procedure and it will take some time for the new knee joint to recover and assume normal functionality. A knee replacement surgery is a boon for people suffering from lack of mobility and functioning or excessive pain in knee joints; the surgery enhances the quality of life and can even last for more than 15 years, provided care is taken. In general cases, a patient can resume normal routine activities almost after three to six weeks after the knee replacement surgery. However, it is advisable to refrain from rigorous activities such as swimming, golfing, biking, etc. which can be undertaken once complete recovery and a go-ahead from the doctor is acquired. Although activities such as jogging, jumping, skiing, tennis, sports, etc. can be resumed slowly. It is important to keep the doctor involved in the undertaking of any new physical activity that might stress the newly replaced knee joint.

Moreover, the patient may be advised to undergo some physical therapy, which is essential for the strengthening of the muscles of replaced joints and maintenance of the smooth movement of the replaced knee joint. Also, special diets, physical exercises, follow-up appointment and tests, might be suggested by the doctor to fasten the process of recovery.

In all, a knee replacement surgery is a shared decision and one that must be made after careful analyses of the current condition of the knee, the need of the surgery, the intensity of symptoms and problems, as well as the after-effects of the surgery.