Total Knee Replacement
Total Knee Replacement (TKR), also known as total knee arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure performed to replace a damaged or worn-out knee joint with an artificial implant (prosthesis). It is a common treatment for severe knee arthritis or other conditions that cause significant pain, loss of function, and reduced quality of life.
The knee joint is one of the largest and most complex joints in the human body. It consists of the lower end of the thighbone (femur), the upper end of the shinbone (tibia), and the kneecap (patella). The ends of these bones are covered with smooth cartilage that allows them to move smoothly against each other. However, due to factors like aging, injury, or various medical conditions, the cartilage can wear away, leading to friction, pain, and stiffness in the knee joint.
When conservative treatments such as physical therapy, medication, or injections no longer provide relief, and the knee joint’s damage becomes severe, a total knee replacement may be recommended.
The Total Knee Replacement Procedure:
Preoperative Evaluation: Before the surgery, the orthopedic surgeon will conduct a comprehensive evaluation, which may include imaging studies like X-rays and MRI scans to assess the extent of joint damage.
Anesthesia: During the surgery, the patient is placed under general anesthesia or regional anesthesia, depending on the patient’s health and the surgeon’s preference.
Incision: The surgeon makes an incision over the knee joint to access the damaged area.
Reshaping Bones: The damaged portions of the femur and tibia are removed, and the ends of these bones are reshaped to fit the artificial knee components.
Implant Placement: Metal components are fixed to the reshaped ends of the femur and tibia, and a plastic spacer is inserted between them to provide a smooth gliding surface.
Patellar Resurfacing: In some cases, the back of the patella may be resurfaced with a plastic component to improve knee joint function.
Closure: After the implants are in place, the surgeon closes the incision using sutures or staples.
Postoperative Care: Following surgery, the patient is monitored in the recovery area before being transferred to a hospital room. Physical therapy and rehabilitation play a crucial role in the recovery process, helping the patient regain knee strength, flexibility, and mobility.
Benefits of Total Knee Replacement:
- Significant reduction in knee pain
- Improved joint function and mobility
- Enhanced quality of life
- Better ability to engage in daily activities and exercises
- Correction of knee deformities (if present)
As with any surgical procedure, TKR carries some risks and potential complications, including infection, blood clots, implant loosening, and nerve or blood vessel damage. However, the vast majority of total knee replacements are successful, and patients experience a significant improvement in their knee function and overall well-being after recovery.
Total Knee Replacement FAQs
A total knee replacement, also known as total knee arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure in which a damaged or worn-out knee joint is replaced with an artificial joint made of metal and plastic components.
TKR is usually recommended for people who suffer from severe knee pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility due to conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic arthritis, or other degenerative joint diseases.
During the surgery, the damaged parts of the knee joint are removed and replaced with metal components on the end of the femur and tibia, as well as a plastic spacer in between to act as cartilage.
Like any surgery, TKR carries some risks, including infection, blood clots, nerve or blood vessel damage, implant loosening, and limited range of motion. However, modern surgical techniques and post-operative care have significantly reduced these risks.
Recovery time varies from person to person, but most patients can expect to start walking with assistance within a day or two after surgery. Physical therapy is an essential part of the recovery process, and patients can usually resume light activities in a few weeks, with full recovery taking several months.
In most cases, yes. After the healing process is complete and you have regained strength and flexibility, you should be able to perform many activities, such as walking, climbing stairs, and low-impact exercises. However, high-impact activities like running and jumping might be discouraged to extend the lifespan of the artificial joint.
The lifespan of a knee replacement varies, but modern implants can last 15 to 20 years or even longer with proper care and activity modification.
Your surgeon will provide you with specific instructions, but generally, it’s essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle, quit smoking, manage any chronic health conditions, and follow a pre-surgery exercise program to strengthen your knee and surrounding muscles.
Pain is normal after TKR, but your surgeon will provide pain management strategies, including medications, ice, and elevation. As the healing progresses, the pain should subside.
Depending on your condition, there might be non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy, medications, injections, or partial knee replacement, which could be considered as alternatives to a total knee replacement.