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The Truth About Knee Replacement Surgery

Knee Replacement Surgery

Whether you have a planned knee replacement surgery or your doctor suggested you start thinking about having one done, it is wise to know the surgery’s facts.

Knee surgery is most commonly suggested to reduce pain due to conditions like osteoarthritis. In addition to the pain, it is common for knee surgery candidates to have difficulties sitting down, getting up, walking, and going up and down the stairs.

Your doctor may also refer to knee replacement surgery as knee arthroplasty. More than  790,000 of these procedures take place in the U.S. annually.

Who Gets Knee Replacement Surgery?

As mentioned, the main goal of this type of surgery is to improve function and relieve pain. People with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and traumatic arthritis are common candidates.

To tell whether you are the right candidate for knee replacement surgery, your doctor will look at your knee’s strength, stability, and range of motion. They will also take X-rays to see how damaged your knees are.

Because surgery is invasive, it comes with some risks. As such, your doctor will typically try other treatments before suggesting knee replacement surgery. It also means that doctors do not usually recommend surgery unless your knee stiffness and pain have a severe negative impact on your life and/or includes pain while at rest. Your doctor may also recommend knee replacement surgery if the knee is deformed, such as having a pronounced arch.

What Happens During Knee Replacement Surgery?

Your surgeon will cut damaged cartilage and bone by the kneecap, shinbone, and thighbone during knee replacement surgery. They then replace this with artificial joints made from a combination of high-grade plastics, polymers, and metal alloys.

The process typically involves an incision between 6 and 10 inches long. The surgery itself takes around two hours, followed by an hour or two of recovery.

Total Vs. Partial

Most people who undergo knee replacement surgery will have a total knee replacement. This involves replacing the knee joint on both sides. A partial knee replacement only does so on one side, leading to a smaller incision but shorter-lasting results. It can be an option if your knee is only damaged in one spot.

Total Knee Replacement Surgery After Car Accident


The risks and complications associated with knee replacement surgery are similar to those of other procedures, including blood clots, infection, and bleeding. There is also the risk of fractures and the patient not getting any relief.

There is also the potential that there will be issues with the implant or the surgery itself. Over time, as the surfaces on the implant wear down, they may get looser and not work as well. It is also possible for your knee to scar, reducing your mobility after the surgery.

What Do You Need to Know About Knee Replacement Recovery?

After spending an hour or two in recovery, most patients stay in the hospital for at least several days after a knee replacement. While in the hospital, your doctor will encourage you to move your ankle and foot around gently. This helps with blood flow, reducing the risk of clots and swelling.

You will also meet with a physical therapist to learn exercises that you need to continue once you get home. These will be gentle movements to strengthen and heal your new knee.

At-home Care After

When you get home, you should not do much more than rest and follow your physical therapy at first. It is best to have someone around to help you out for a week or two. Your at-home care instructions will vary based on your situation but may include:

  • Keeping the incision site clean and dry
  • Elevating your legs
  • Icing your knee
  • Using approved pain relievers
  • Looking for signs of infection
  • Using a cane, at least until you have regained balance

Your orthopedic doctor may also suggest minor modifications to your home, like adding a shower bench and other assistive devices, such as reaching sticks and shoehorns with long handles.

What You Can and Cannot Do After Surgery

In most cases, you can go back to your typical (non-strenuous) activities about three or six weeks following the surgery, including driving if you can safely do so.

You can bike, golf, swim, or do other low-impact activities. You should not do high-impact sports, including jogging.

Remember that knee replacement surgery is to help you live a comfortable daily life, not to let you become an athlete.

How Long Do Artificial Knees Last?

The most important thing to know about knee replacement surgery is that it is a long-term solution, but it does not deliver permanent results. No matter how strong the materials are, daily use will wear them down. If you are overweight or highly active, they will wear down more quickly.

Most people who have knee replacement surgery will have the results last 15 years or more. Even better, 80 to 85% of people have their surgery last at least 20 years. As such, depending on your age, you may have more than one knee surgery in your future.

Call 1-800-897-8440 to find an experienced knee specialist near you for a consultation or get more information about total knee replacement.


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