Introduction to Knee Replacement
A knee replacement surgery (also known as arthroplasty), involves replacing a worn or damaged knee with an artificial joint.
What is a Knee Replacement?
A knee replacement surgery (also known as arthroplasty), involves replacing a worn or damaged knee with an artificial joint. More than 70,000 knee replacements are carried out in England and Wales each year, and the elderly is the most common group to undergo knee replacements. Typically, a knee replacement lasts over 20 years, if it is cared for properly. There are two types of knee replacement, either total knee replacement where both sides of your knee joint are replaced or partial knee replacement, in which only one side of your joints is replaced. Common reasons where the surgery is needed are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, haemophillia, gout or knee injury.
How is a Knee Replacement performed?
Two types of anaesthetic can be used, either general where you are asleep during the surgery or epidural where injection is given into your spine to numb the lower half of your body. Your surgeon will remove the worn ends of the bones in your knee joint and replace it with metal and plastic parts which have been measured previously to fit. The wound is then closed with stitches and a dressing is applied. The procedure takes one to three hours.
How to prepare for a Knee Replacement?
Read any information leaflets so that you are well informed. As you will have limited mobility after the surgery, arrange for help and sort out transport before the surgery. You should also stay active to strengthen the muscles around your knee as this will help in recovery.
Your surgeon will also take a medical history and run a couple of tests, such as blood tests, urine tests, electrocardiograms (ECG) and X-rays, to show that you are healthy before proceeding. There are also a number of medications that you should stop taking, for example anticoagulants, as they will thin your blood, and affect healing process. Your surgeon will discuss this with you and offer any alternative medications.
What happens after a Knee Replacement?
You will need to stay in the hospital for a few days after the surgery and will be given painkillers to help relieve pain. Blood transfusion may be administered if you lose too much of blood. While at the hospital, a physiotherapist will teach you some exercise to help strengthen your knee. You will also be given advice on how to avoid dislocation of your new joint and how to take care of it.
You are able to go home after three to five days and may experience tiredness as you just had a surgery. It can take up to months before the discomfort subsides. Regarding when can you drive again or go back to work, your physiotherapist will advise you, depending on your condition. It is best to avoid strenuous activities that may damage the new joint.
As with any other surgery, there are risks. Although rare, these include knee stiffness, possible infection, bleeding at the site of injury, blood clots or persistent pain. If you experience chest pains, there may be a clot in your lung (pulmonary embolism), contact your doctor immediately to seek for urgent treatment.