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Total Knee Replacement

Chronic knee pain can affect your ability to stay mobile and enjoy life. Total knee replacement may be recommended if you’re unable to control your knee pain through other treatments. It can be a very effective long-term solution. Overall, 90-95% of knee replacements last at least 15 years.

Do I qualify for knee replacement?

Total knee replacement may be an option if:

  • Other treatments, such as anti-inflammatory medications or physical therapy, have stopped working.
  • You have severe pain that limits your activities and affects your sleep.
  • You have visible changes in your knees or legs, such as a bowleg.

On average, most knee replacements are performed in those who are between 60 and 80 years old, but many younger and old patients qualify.

How do I prepare for knee replacement?

Typically, you’ll have an appointment prior to your surgery to review important information, complete any needed blood work, and answer your questions. Your surgeon may have you make changes to your habits, medication, or diet prior to surgery.

You may find it helpful to review exercises and precautions prior to your procedure that will be important to your recovery. Some resources from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons include:

Activities After a Knee Replacement

Knee Arthroscopy Exercise Guide

Knee Replacement Exercise Guide

What happens during total knee replacement?

Your knee replacement will be customized to your specific knee and its condition. Surgeons have the ability to adjust the size of your replacement pieces or add extra pieces if there is extensive damage in your knee.

In general, knee replacement surgery takes around two hours. Your surgeon will remove and replace part of the bottom of your thigh bone, called the femur, and remove and replace part of the top of your tibia, which a bone in your lower leg. You may also have your kneecap replaced. Once your surgeon has the artificial knee pieces fitted and secured, your knee will be closed and bandaged.

What are the benefits and risks of knee replacement?

As with any surgery, there will be both benefits and risks. Most knee replacement patients enjoy an improved quality of life with less pain and better mobility.

The risks of surgery may include:

  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Knee stiffness
  • Cosmetic changes
  • Wear of the artificial joint
  • Damage to the nerves, ligaments, or blood vessels in the knee
  • Leg length differences

What recovery is needed after knee replacement?

Your recovery depends on your specific condition, but you can expect the following:

  • You’ll wake up in the recovery room, where you will have a tube in your bladder, an IV in your arm, a drain tube in your knee, and monitors for your vital signs.
  • Your team will work with you to manage your pain. At first, you may have a patient-controlled analgesia pump, which has a button to push for pain medication.
  • You will be encouraged to start moving and walking within one to two days.
  • You’ll be discharged from the hospital in five to seven days.
  • At home, you’ll be provided a list of movement limitations and exercises to help you recover.
  • By six weeks, you should be able to drive, walk comfortably, and bend your knee.
  • A return to full activity can take up to three months.