What to Expect from Knee Replacement Surgery

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When the cartilage in your knee sustains damage from an injury, rheumatoid arthritis, or osteoarthritis, you will begin to have pain and stiffness in your knee. Knee replacement is an option to correct these issues by replacing your knee with an artificial joint to provide better alignment, which reduces the stiffness and eases pain. This type of surgery is often recommended when other treatment options such as therapy, pain medications, and steroids have failed. Your medical provider will choose from a variety of prostheses and surgical techniques, depending on various factors, such as your activity level, overall health, age, weight, and the size and shape of your knee. If your medical provider has recommended knee replacement surgery, here is some information about the different types of knee replacement surgery and what you should expect before, during, and after the surgery.

Different Types of Knee Replacement Surgeries

Your orthopedic surgeon will discuss with you and recommend which of different types of knee replacement surgery is the best suited for your individual situation. The type of knee replacement you receive will depend on both personal factors and the type and extent of damage to your knee. During your consultation, your orthopedic surgeon will do an examination, which includes evaluating your stability, range of motion, and overall strength. The main options for knee replacement include:

  • Partial knee replacement-This type of surgery is known as unicompartmental knee replacement (partial). It is generally recommended when the damage from arthritis is limited to a single compartment of your knee or if there is damage to the cartilage, but minimal problems with knee alignment. A partial replacement allows the orthopedic surgeon to replace only the portion of your knee that is damaged as opposed to replacing the entire knee.
  • Total knee replacement-A total replacement is recommended if there is extreme stiffness and pain when you are attempting everyday activities or if the pain in your knee interferes with your sleep. This is the most common as well as the most comprehensive type of replacement surgery for your knee. Also known as arthroplasty, with this procedure your orthopedic surgeon removes your damaged tibia and femur bone and the cartilage surfaces, all of which are replaced with artificial materials.
  • Knee replacement revision-Replacement revision surgery is done to replace the prosthetic implants in someone that previously had a total knee replacement. The original prosthesis is removed and replaced with a new prosthesis. Over a period of time, the original materials tend to break down as a result of normal wear and tear, which causes new pain in the knee joint.
  • Kneecap replacement-This is a type of partial knee replacement where the undersurface of your kneecap and the femur groove is replaced. A kneecap replacement typically involves a smaller incision and fewer disruptions to surrounding tissue, and it has a quicker recovery time than other versions of knee replacement surgery.

Preparing for Knee Replacement Surgery

The first step is to find an experienced and trustworthy orthopedic surgeon to thoroughly explain the procedure to you as well as help prepare you for the pre- and post-surgical commitment you’ll need. Preparing for knee replacement surgery means you should prepare your home to be as accommodating as possible for when you return home. This may include tasks such as removing clutter or obstacles that make it difficult to navigate through the main living area and moving your sleeping area to the main floor for you to spend time recovering. It’s important that you are in the best health and shape that you can be, and your medical provider will want to know about any serious health conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes.

During the Surgery

The procedure time for a knee replacement typically takes about one to two hours; however, the time may be longer or shorter depending on the type of replacement surgery being done, the extinct of the damage, and other potential difficulties during the replacement procedure. The surgeon will remove the damaged cartilage and bone from your knee and install the metal prosthesis to the ends of the calf and thighbones. A placer space is then placed between the metal pieces, which allows your new knee joint to move smoothly.

Following the Procedure

Following the surgery, you will be taken to a room for recovery. After about an hour or two in recovery, you will be moved to a hospital room where you will usually stay for a few days. During this time in the hospital, you will receive medications for your pain, and you will be asked to move your foot and ankle, which will help reduce the swelling and risk of blood clots. You will need to wear compression boots or support hose, which also protect against clotting and swelling. During your time in the hospital, you will work with a physical therapist to learn how to exercise the new knee. You will also continue the physical therapy at home or rehabilitation center.


Recovery time varies depending on the type of knee replacement you had. For instance, the recovery time for a partial replacement is typically shorter because the incision is smaller and there is less internal repair. Many patients are discharged from the hospital in a day or two and will begin physical therapy the same day as their surgery or the following day. It is important that you follow all the post-surgery instructions and report to your orthopedic surgeon any problems you may experience with the new knee following the surgery.

When someone is considering knee replacement surgery, it is usually because they have tried all other non-surgical treatments, but they continue to have severe pain and/or mobility problems that have interfered with their daily activities. For the majority of people who have replacement surgery, they have improved mobility, their pain subsides, and they have a better quality of life. In most situations, a knee replacement may be expected to last 15 years or longer. Unfortunately, some people find themselves involved in knee replacement lawsuits as a result of a malfunctioning, damaged, or unsafe device. If you are experiencing any issues with your new knee, it is critical that you contact your orthopedic surgeon to address your concerns. If you discover that there is a problem with the prosthesis, contact your attorney to learn more information about how to proceed with a legal claim if necessary.




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