Knee replacement is a surgical procedure that removes damaged-parts of the knee joint and replaces it with artificial parts.
The most common condition that results in the need for knee replacement is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is common in the knees because the knees bear the weight of the body and can severely impact a person’s lifestyle including walking and climbing stairs. A knee replacement surgery is a major surgical procedure that should be considered only after all other conservative treatment options (physiotherapy therapy, injections, arthroscopic debridement) have failed.
Similar to any surgery, knee replacement surgeries can come with certain risks including, stroke, nerve damage, heart attack, infections or blood clots (in the lungs or leg veins).
The surgeon will conduct a physical examination to gauge the knee’s strength, stability and range of motion, and taking into account the patient’s medical history before recommending surgery for the patient. The surgeon will explain how the surgery will be carried out and also give post-surgery care advices so that the patient will be able to make informed decisions. Prior to surgery, patients will be required to fast up to six hours before the surgery and patients will be advised if they need to stop any medication or dietary supplements during the fasting period.
While the risk of infection is very minimal, the doctor should be notified immediately if the following symptoms manifest:
- High fever
- Severe swelling, pain, tenderness, and redness in the affected area
- Drainage from the site of surgery
In most cases, the patient will need to stay in the hospital for two days after the surgery. Moving the ankle and foot will be encouraged in order to prevent the formation of blood clots and swelling and to increase blood flow to the legs.
Oftentimes, a day after the surgery, patient will be taught exercises for the new knee. Recovery is also faster if patient will adhere to all the instructions the doctor will give pertaining to exercise, diet, and wound care.
A typical physical activity program often includes:
- Gradual walking program (indoors first, then outdoors) in order to increase mobility
- Knee-strengthening exercises (taught by the physical therapist), to be done several times daily
- Slow return to everyday routine (including walking up and down the stairs)
For majority of patients, knee replacement surgery provides improved mobility, pain relief, and better quality of life.
After three to six weeks, patients who have had the surgery can already perform activities like light housekeeping and shopping. Low-impact activities like biking, golfing, walking, and swimming can also be enjoyed. However, high-impact activities like skiing, tennis, and jogging would be prohibited. To play safe, recommended limitations are best discussed with the doctor.