Skagit Northwest Orthopedic

Knee Joint Replacement

What is Knee Joint Replacement

Knee joint replacement, also termed knee arthroplasty, is a surgical intervention to replace damaged or degenerated knee joint components with prosthetic parts. This procedure primarily addresses the wear and tear of the knee joint due to conditions like osteoarthritis or injury.
The knee joint itself comprises the surfaces of the thigh bone (femur) connecting with the shin bone (tibia), cushioned by the disc-shaped meniscal cartilages:

This surgical procedure offers two primary approaches:

The decision between total and partial knee replacement often depends on the extent of damage, patient-specific factors, and the recommendations provided by orthopedic specialists.

A doctor showing a knee joint model.

Who Would Need Knee Replacement Surgery

Knee replacement surgery is a solution for alleviating severe arthritic symptoms that significantly impact daily life. These symptoms include:

The knee can be affected by various forms of arthritis, each impacting the joint in distinct ways:

While knee joint replacement is commonly recommended for individuals aged 60 and above, specific cases may involve younger adults experiencing traumatic arthritis, leading to partial knee replacement.

How Does an Orthopedic Surgeon Decide if You Need Knee Replacement

An orthopedic surgeon conducts a comprehensive assessment to determine the necessity of knee replacement:

When surgery is deemed necessary, the surgical approach and prosthetic selection are meticulously tailored based on several critical factors:

This customized approach ensures optimal outcomes, considering the individual’s unique physiological characteristics and health conditions.

What are the Risks of the Procedure

Knee joint replacement is a transformative procedure that significantly reduces pain and enhances patient mobility. Doing so improves the quality of life and knee functionality in daily activities.

The procedure offers substantial benefits:

While complications are uncommon, potential risks associated with knee joint replacement include:

Specific to knee joint replacement, there are additional considerations:

How to Prepare for Knee Joint Replacement Surgery

Preparation for knee joint replacement entails comprehensive planning to ensure a smooth post-surgery phase. This includes arranging the necessary aids for mobility, accommodating home settings, and organizing transportation and assistance for daily tasks.

Around two weeks before the procedure, your healthcare provider conducts a comprehensive health assessment encompassing:

Moreover, participating in pre-surgery physical therapy rehabilitation becomes pivotal:

The patient is commonly instructed to fast for eight hours before the scheduled surgery, usually starting at midnight.

Doctors working on a total knee replacement surgery.

What to Expect During Surgery

Knee joint replacement surgery typically spans 1-2 hours. It involves specific procedural steps conducted under either general or regional anesthesia.

The patient is either 1.) put under general anesthesia, rendering them unconscious throughout the procedure, or 2.) regional anesthesia is administered to numb the lower part of the body while the patient remains conscious.

The surgical process includes several key stages:

This surgical procedure aims to restore the knee joint’s functionality, alleviate pain, and enhance the patient’s overall mobility and quality of life.

Recovery After Surgery

Following the procedure, patients often require an overnight stay in the hospital to recover from surgery and anesthesia effects. 

The patient is treated with passive range-of-motion exercises before being taught how to move safely in and out of bed without stressing the replaced knee joint. In short distances (such as inside the hospital room or in a nearby hospital corridor), the patient is guided with their mobility aid on how to bear no weight on the affected knee. 

Some cases may necessitate a rehabilitation center stay to ensure safe and independent daily activity execution before going home.

The recovery period typically spans 4-12 months, contingent upon factors like age, pre-surgery physical condition, and concurrent health conditions.

Pain Management

Wound Care

Physical Therapy Rehabilitation

Things to Avoid During Recovery Until Your Healthcare Provider Confirms It is Safe to Do So

In the recovery phase following knee replacement surgery, refraining from certain activities is essential:

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

It’s crucial to contact your healthcare provider if you encounter:

Artificial hip joint prosthetics.

Will the Knee Joint Replacement Last, or Will It Need to be Replaced?

Knee joint replacement surgeries have shown remarkable longevity, with more than 90% of patients experiencing sustained improved knee function for 10-15 years and, in some cases, even up to 20 years.

However, beyond this period, the prosthetic knee replacement may encounter issues such as loosening or wearing out, necessitating potential re-surgeries. Regular follow-up appointments become crucial to assess the alignment and condition of the artificial joint.

To prolong the longevity of knee replacements and minimize stress on the prosthetic joint, patients are advised to engage in specific activities:

See our dedicated page to learn more about Joint Replacements.