What do I need to know about a knee replacement?

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Do you have a scheduled knee replacement? Have you considered having one or been given that option by your doctor? Are you worried that your osteoarthritis might require a knee replacement down the road? If so, you are not alone. More than half a million knee replacement operations occur in the United States each year1. The vast majority of these operations are used to help treat 0steoarthritis2. If you’re undergoing a knee replacement operation or just thinking about one, here are a few things you should know.

When is it time to get a knee replacement?

For osteoarthritis, there may come a time when despite using the best medical treatments, your knees continue to deteriorate. Carrying out simple day-to-day activities may become more difficult. You may find that basic movements like lying down or standing up are painful or almost impossible.

If you’re suffering from continually reduced mobility despite medical interventions, it may be time to consider knee replacement. Before making that decision, speak to your doctor or surgeon to see if you’re a suitable candidate. They will do a number of things such as

  • take your medical history,
  • perform a physical examination, and
  • X-ray your knee

before determining to see if it’s the right course of action for you.

What happens after the operation?

After knee replacement, surgery patients usually spend 3-5 days in the hospital. This usually depends on how the immediate recovery goes. You can begin weight-bearing therapy immediately after the operation and continue other therapy on an outpatient basis. In most cases, you will likely be able to stand and walk with the help of a cane or walker before you leave the hospital2.

How long will the recovery take?

The recovery period depends on lots of different factors. These may include

  • your physical condition before surgery,
  • any other medical problems you may have, and
  • the absence (or presence) of complications following the procedure.

Yet, as a general rule, it can take up to 3 months for you to return to your daily activities. From there, it can take 6 months to one year to fully recover to maximum strength and endurance3.

Risks and complications of a knee replacement operation?

Knee replacement operations have been carried out since the 1970s. They are generally one of the safest operations, with very few patients experiencing complications. The most common surgical complication is infection, documented to occur in fewer than 2% of patients2.

Other complications include

  • blood clots,
  • problems with the implant,
  • persistent pain, and
  • damage to the blood vessels surrounding the knee.

These are usually dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Precautions to take after the surgery?

Immediately after the operation, the knee joint is quite fragile. For this reason, most surgeons recommend that patients don’t pivot or twist on the involved leg for at least 6 weeks4. Also during this time, be sure to remember the following4:

  • When lying in bed, you should keep the involved knee as straight as possible.
  • Avoid kneeling and squatting should soon after knee joint replacement surgery.
  • Your physical therapist will be able to provide you with techniques and adaptive equipment that will assist in your recovery.
  • Follow any guidelines that your physiotherapist or doctor gives you!

Failing to follow the given precautions could result in the dislocation of your new replaced joint.

Will you need physiotherapy?

Most people who have undergone a total knee replacement require physical therapy following the surgery. Depending on your condition before the procedure, physical therapy is beneficial for up to 3 months but rarely longer3. The amount of therapy needed depends upon

  • your condition before surgery,
  • your general health, and
  • of course, your motivation3.

How long your new knee joint replacement will last?

We know that about 85% of knee joint implants will last 20 years or more4. Most current data suggests that both hip and knee replacements have an extremely low failure rate. This means that if you have your joint replaced today, you have a 90-95% chance that your joint will last 10 years, and an 80-85% that it will last 20 years3.

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1- Healthline. What Do You Want To Know About Total Knee Replacement? Written by Samuel Greengard. April 2012. http://www.healthline.com/health/total-knee-replacement-surgery.

2- Knee Replacement Surgery for Arthritis, WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on May 10, 2016. http://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/guide/knee-replacement-surgery#1.

3- American association of hip and knee surgeons. Total knee replacement. http://www.aahks.org/care-for-hips-and-knees/do-i-need-a-joint-replacement/total-knee-replacement/.

4- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Total Knee replacement. August 2015. Contributed and/or Updated by: Jared R. H. Foran, MD. Peer-Reviewed by: Stuart J. Fischer, MD. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00389.

5 thoughts on “What do I need to know about a knee replacement?

  1. Raisa Delima says:

    That’s a good tip to get an x-ray to see if a knee replacement would be a good idea. I think that is what my grandpa will need, so I’ll talk to him about getting an x-ray. Thanks for the tips.

  2. Jaque Christo says:

    Thank you for the post on what I need to know about a knee replacement. I definitely think if no amount of medication or physical therapy is helping with the pain or ease of use anymore then it might be time to consider knee replacement surgery. You don’t want to be in pain every day and you want to get back on your feet and enjoying your life.

  3. Joy Butler says:

    I’m grateful for your advice that it will take 6 months to one year for its full recovery. This is what my uncle wants to know since he’s deciding if he’ll undergo in this kind of procedure. When he got an accident 3 years ago, his left knee has been damaged. However, the pain only occurs just recently.

  4. Alice Carroll says:

    Thanks for the reminder that it’s important to be mindful of possible clotting when getting a knee replacements. I’d like to look for a good orthopedist to consult about that because my son needs to undergo that kind of surgery. Knowing what to expect during the recovery period would be very beneficial.

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