Knee replacement surgery involves a surgical team that cuts away the damaged bone and cartilage from your kneecap, thighbone, and shinbone and replaces the diseased tissue with an artificial joint. Known as a prosthesis, the new joint is made of metal alloy, high-grade plastics, and polymers. There are several surgical techniques used by physicians, and your surgeon can consult with you about the best one to use for your overall health, age, activity level, weight, and lifestyle.
Knee replacement surgery is typically performed as an outpatient surgery, meaning patients are home within a few hours of the procedure. Robert had a typical experience:
- He arrived at outpatient surgery at 5:45 a.m.
- By 7:00 a.m. he was prepped for surgery
- At 2:00 p.m. Robert walked out of the outpatient facility on his own
Outpatient surgeries have several benefits associated with them including:
- Lower chance of infection
- More convenience when compared to a procedure performed at a hospital
- No overnight stay required
- Often use smaller incisions resulting in a faster recovery time and smaller scar
While there are always risks associated with any surgery, knee replacement is both very common and very safe. For many patients, like Robert, it is a life-changer that helps you get back to the activities you enjoy without crippling pain from bad knees.
What Are the Signs You Might Need Knee Replacement Surgery?
If your knee is damaged by an injury or if you have arthritis it may be very hard for you to perform normal activities. That’s what happened to Robert, whose pain became so bad he could no longer walk any distance without crippling pain.
Your knees may crack or threaten to “give out” or seem unstable. In the worst cases, knee pain may become a problem even when the patient is sitting or lying down.
Robert commented that before the surgery his knee would crack all the time when he would sit down or walk. After the surgery?
“My knee – it just didn’t crack anymore,” says Robert.
When nonsurgical care such as medication for pain or using walking supports are no longer beneficial, it’s time to consider knee replacement surgery. Some typical signs that you might need knee replacement surgery include:
- Debilitating pain that keeps you from doing normal activities
- Pain when at rest
- Inflammation and swelling that doesn’t go away
- Knee deformity, where the knee bows in or out
- Inability to improve with anti-inflammatory medications, steroid or lubrication injections, physical therapy, or other types of surgery
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), the first knee replacement surgery was performed in 1968. Our techniques have grown much more sophisticated, and today, the AAOS reports, “Total knee replacements are one of the most successful procedures in all of medicine.” More than 790,000 knee replacement surgeries are performed every year in the United States.
How Does Knee Replacement Surgery Help Patients?
Robert is a great example of how knee replacement surgery can change your life. When he first saw Dr. Jones, he could barely move around. At about the 90-day mark after surgery and physical therapy, Robert is walking two or more miles every day.
“It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my personal health,” says Robert.
The goal of knee replacement surgery is to remove and replace the bone, tissue, and inflammation causing the patient so much discomfort. The majority of patients experience pain relief, increased mobility, and overall better quality of life. Medical News Today reports more than 90% of patients experienced dramatic improvements in their mobility and in pain levels.
What to Expect with Your Knee Replacement Surgery?
If you’re experiencing consistent and debilitating knee pain, the first step is to call South Florida Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine. We will get you scheduled for your first consultation with one of our Board-Certified Orthopaedic Surgeons. Your doctor will work one-on-one with you to determine if you are a candidate for knee replacement surgery, or if there are other options to improve the quality of your life.
At our practice, we recognize that your health is an individualized journey and that many factors come into play when choosing the right kind of treatment. Robert says this individual attention is what made his experience so comfortable, stating, “You are a person here, not a number.”
When you come to our practice, we will take a medical history and your doctor will perform a physical exam and X-ray your knee in addition to reviewing any prior medical records. Even if your pain level is high, we will work with you to explore less invasive non-surgical options first. Together, we will make the right treatment decision that will get you back to your favorite activities as quickly as possible.
If we decide to treat your knee with surgery, your doctor will carefully explain the procedure, the post-operative steps to prepare, and the care after the surgery. You will have several tests to prepare for the surgery. Like Robert’s experience, the majority of these patients leave the surgical care unit the same day. Your doctor’s evaluation will help decide your length of stay for the procedure.
The day of the procedure you will:
- Change into a gown to wear and an IV (intravenous) line may be started in your hand or arm
- You will be positioned on the operating table
- The surgical site will be shaved, disinfected, and prepped
- The anesthesiologist will continuously monitor your heart, blood pressure, breathing, and blood oxygen levels during the surgery
- The doctor will make an incision in the knee joint to remove the damaged parts and replace them with a prosthesis
- The incision will be closed. A drain may be placed in the incision to remove fluids
- A sterile dressing will be applied
- You will be moved to recovery to wake up from the anesthetic
When you awake, you will meet with your surgeon, the nurse, and a physical therapist. This care team will make the discharge decision when you’re physically ready. You’ll need someone to drive you and help care for you at home, of course, and your clinical team will provide them (and you) with instructions for aftercare. We will all work together after surgery to help you get used to the new knee and regain your function. During rehabilitation, which takes several weeks, it’s important to use medications as instructed and do your physical therapy exercises. Throughout this process, your doctor will monitor your healing and mobility.
A long as patients follow the doctor’s care instructions, a knee replacement can last up to 20 years. In Robert’s experience, the relief he felt and the mobility he experienced was well worth it.
When asked if he would make the same decision to have surgical knee replacement again, he said, “Definitely.”