If you’re experiencing persistent pain in your knee, it might be time to consider knee replacement surgery.
Is your knee pain so severe that it interferes with your daily activities and keeps you up at night? If you suffer from advanced osteoarthritis in the knee or have had a significant injury to the joint, you may be a candidate for knee replacement. Other conditions that cause chronic joint pain — such as inflammation due to rheumatoid arthritis or connective tissue disorders, in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue — may also qualify you for the procedure.
Fortunately, knee replacement surgery is a safe, effective method for restoring full function to the joint. The procedure has been successfully performed in the U.S. for over 50 years, helping millions of patients relieve joint pain and improve range of motion in the knee.
KNEE REPLACEMENT SURGERY: THE BASICS
Your doctor may recommend knee replacement after attempting to address knee pain with conservative treatments like physical therapy. Depending upon the extent of the damage, patients may undergo one of two types of surgeries.
Partial Knee Replacement
Also known as a unicondylar knee replacement, a partial knee replacement removes only the impaired parts of the knee joint, leaving behind healthy bone and cartilage. During this procedure, the surgeon creates a small incision through which damaged bone and cartilage are extracted from the tibia (shinbone) or femur (thighbone). The surgeon then implants a knee replacement made of metal or plastic that matches the shape of your knee joint.
Partial knee replacements work well for less advanced cases of arthritis. Compared to a total knee replacement, a partial knee replacement is less invasive and generally involves a shorter recovery time.
Total Knee Replacement
In a total knee replacement, the entire knee joint, including the arthritic ends of the femur and tibia and the kneecap, are removed and replaced. To start, the surgeon cuts into the knee to view the bones of the joint. After cutting away the damaged portions of the femur and tibia, the surgeon determines the correct size of the knee replacement by using a temporary prosthetic. Once a proper fit is found, the knee replacement is inserted and sealed to the bones. To complete the operation, the surgeon drains and bandages the knee.
Because it’s a more extensive surgery than a partial knee replacement, a total knee replacement requires a longer healing period. Both surgeries, however, help patients improve their quality of life in a relatively short time. After their recovery, the vast majority of patients report increased mobility with no pain.
WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER KNEE REPLACEMENT SURGERY
After each type of surgery, you’ll be in the hospital for a short stay, although expect a slightly longer stay after a total knee replacement. You’ll be given anti-inflammatory medication to lessen any pain and swelling.
Immediately following your discharge, you’ll need a walker or crutches for about six weeks. This takes the pressure off your repaired knee so it can heal. After six weeks, you can drive and walk with the assistance of a cane. At this point, most patients are able to return to work. Your knee should quickly regain its full range of motion, and after six weeks you’ll be able to bend your knee at a 90-degree angle.
Physical therapy begins right after surgery, and most patients can return to all normal activities within 10 months. Physical therapy may continue until you are able to fully support your weight on your knee. Once implanted, your knee replacement should last up to 15 years.
As with any major surgery, knee replacement carries some risks. Blood loss and nerve damage are possible. An experienced orthopedic surgeon can detail the advantages and disadvantages with you so you can make an informed decision.
At New York Bone & Joint Specialists, we understand that undergoing a knee replacement is a major decision. Our top-rated physicians and surgeons will discuss your individual case and recommend a treatment option that’s right for you. Contact us today for an expert consultation.