What Is a Knee Replacement?
Knee replacement, or arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure in which the diseased parts of the knee joint are removed and replaced with new, artificial parts, made out of a special highly polished alloy and a very hard polyethylene. The goals of knee replacement surgery are to improve mobility , relieving pain and improve function of the knee joint.
Who Should Have Knee Replacement Surgery?
Knee replacements are most commonly done for osteoarthritis (wear and tear) and rheumatoid arthritis. Knee replacement may be an option if persistent pain and disability interfere with daily activities and joint damage is detectable on x rays.
In the past, Knee replacement surgery was an option primarily for people over 60 years of age. Older people are less active and put less strain on the artificial knee ,however, doctors have found that knee replacement surgery can be very successful in younger people as well. New techniques like Oxford knee replacement
and better technology have improved the artificial parts, allowing them to withstand more stress and strain.
What Does Knee Replacement Surgery Involve?
The Knee joint is located where the lower end of the thigh bone meets the upper end of shin bone. During knee replacement, the surgeon removes the diseased bone tissue and cartilage from the joint. Then the surgeon replaces the trimmed bone with with new, artificial parts. The new knee is made of materials that allow a natural, gliding motion of the joint. Knee replacement surgery usually lasts 1 to 1.5 hours.
Cemented replacements are more frequently used than cementless ones and are better for older, less active people and people with weak bones, such as those who have osteoporosis and in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
What Can Be Expected Immediately After Surgery?
Patients are allowed to get up the day after surgery with the help of a frame or crutches. Generally they will be able to put as much weight through the operated leg as they are comfortable with. The patient may receive fluids through an intravenous tube to replace fluids lost during surgery. There also may be a tube located near the incision to drain fluid for about 48 hours Most patients will be provided with patient controlled analgesia where they can press a button on a machine which delivers a set amount of painkiller into their body effectively relieving pain.
How Long Are Recovery and Rehabilitation?
On the day after surgery or sometimes on the day of surgery, therapists will teach the patient exercises that will improve recovery, such as contracting and relaxing certain muscles, that can strengthen the knee. Because the new, artificial knee has a more limited range of movement than an undiseased knee, the physical therapist also will teach the patient proper techniques for simple activities of daily living, such as bending and sitting, to prevent injury to the new knee. As early as 1 to 2 days after surgery, a patient may be able to sit on the edge of the bed, stand, and walk with assistance.
Usually, people do not spend more than 6-7 days in the hospital after knee replacement surgery. Full recovery from the surgery takes about 6-12 weeks depending on the type of surgery, the overall health of the patient, and the success of rehabilitation.
How to Prepare for Surgery and Recovery
People can do many things before and after they have surgery to make everyday tasks easier and help speed their recovery.
- Arrange for someone to help you around the house for a week or two after coming home from the hospital.
- Arrange for transportation to and from the hospital.
- Set up a "recovery station" at home. Place the television remote control, radio, telephone, medicine, tissues , waste basket, and pitcher and glass next to the spot where you will spend the most time while you recover.
- Place items you use every day at arm level to avoid reaching up or bending down.
- Stock up on kitchen staples and prepare food in advance, such as frozen casseroles or soups that can be reheated and served easily.
- Follow the doctor's instructions.
- Work with a physical therapist to rehabilitate your hip.
- Use a long-handled "reacher" to turn on lights or grab things that are beyond arm's length. Hospital personnel may provide one of these or suggest where to buy one.