Also known as knee arthroplasty, knee replacement surgery is a surgical procedure that replaces the weight bearing surfaces of a knee joint relieving the patient of pain and disability. Though mostly used for dealing with osteoarthritis patients, this surgery is often implemented on patients suffering from other knee diseases such as psoriatic arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis as well.
A knee replacement surgery can be of two types: partial knee replacement and total knee replacement. In general, the surgery involves replacing the damaged joint surfaces with plastic and metal components with proper shape to allow continued motion of the knee.
Before the Surgery
The pre-operative preparation generally lasts for a month. The patient is often asked to perform various motion exercises focusing on knee, hip and ankle strengthening. Some of the pre-operative tests, before conducting the surgery include: APTT – PT, Complete Blood Count, Electrolytes, Blood Cross-Matching, ECG etc. In some cases, surgeons advise patients to consume supplemental iron so that blood hemoglobin receives a boost. Accurate X-Ray tests are conducted on the affected knee as well, so that the appropriate size of alternate component (The one which replaces damaged weight bearing surfaces) can be decided. Certain medications such as aspirin and warfarin should be stopped a few days before the surgery, this ensures less amount of bleeding. Certain hospitals conduct pre-operative seminars as well, so, if you know your hospital is organizing one, don’t forget to attend the same.
The rehabilitation period after the Surgery
Post-operative hospitalization may last between 1 and 7 days, depending on the mode of surgery, the condition of the patient and the support available outside of the hospital. Till the quadriceps muscle is completely healed, a walker is required (Protected weight bearing on crutches can be used as well). Apart from that, surgeons advise the patients to undergo weeks of occupational and physical therapy so that strength, function and motion are restored. In an ideal case scenario, the patient recovers the range of motion, to the limit of prosthesis, within the very first couple of weeks. Within 6 weeks, the patients generally progress to full weight bearing with a cane. For complete recovery, it may take around 3 months, but, in some cases, even longer than that.
Like any other joint replacement procedures, there are risks associated with knee replacement surgery as well. Below, you will find the general complications experienced by the patients after undergoing it:
• The most serious complication is of infection in the knee joint and this is observed in less than 1% of the patients.
• The most common complication of a knee replacement surgery is deep vein thrombosis. Around 15% of the patients suffer from this after undergoing the surgery. To prevent the same, you need to do lower leg exercises, periodically elevate the legs, support stockings and take proper medication to thin the blood.
• If the patient is old, sometimes periprosthetic fractures are experienced.
• Around 1%-2% of the patients suffer from nerve injuries, whereas, persistent pain or stiffness is experienced by 8%-12% of the patients.
• At rare occasions, the plastic or metal component gets stuck inside the knee and thereby the patient is unable to move or bend knees. Situation can get worse, if the same dislocates to the outer side of the knee.
How Long Does The Knee Joint Last?
When the surgery was introduced in 1970s, it was assumed to last for 10 years at maximum. However, thanks to the advancement of medical science, the implants used these days, last for a minimum of 20 years.
There are risks associated with knee replacement surgery, so the decision of the surgeon should be made carefully. If an experienced surgeon is there to take care of you, you don’t need to worry much.