When your knee is significantly damaged by arthritis or injury, it may be hard for you to perform even basic activities such as walking or climbing the stairs. You may start to suffer from pain even while you are sitting or lying down, limiting your ability to find any relief. If medications, changing your activity level, and using walking supports are no longer helpful, you may want to consider total knee replacement surgery. By resurfacing your knee’s damaged and worn surfaces, total knee replacement surgery (also known as knee arthroplasty) can relieve your pain, correct your leg deformity and help you resume your normal activities. At the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio, we have seen knee surgery change the lives of our patients, helping to restore their range of motion and activity level.
As the largest joint of the body, the knee takes plenty of wear and tear over the years. Joints are where two bones meet and help the bones to move. The knee joins the thighbone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia). Cartilage covers the end of each bone, which protects the bone and allows for pain-free movement. Another bone, known as the patella or kneecap, protects the front of the knee joint. Ligaments, tendons and muscles protect the joint by limiting movement while allowing for the knee to operate normally. A thin membrane surrounds the surfaces of the joint to keep the cartilage lubricated and reduce friction.
When any of the components of the knee become diseased or damaged, the knee will not function properly. This diminished function can lead to discomfort and limited motion of the joint. In severe cases, knee damage can lead to chronic pain and prevent an individual from participating and a broad range of activities. Replacing a portion or all the joint can restore normal movement and reduce pain to improve the patient’s quality of life overall. While partial knee replacement is sufficient for a few patients, total knee arthroplasty is much more commonly performed to ensure the best possible result.
There can be different reasons why chronic knee pain might occur. Causes of damage to the joint might include:
Osteoarthritis is the most common culprit by far in chronic knee pain and damage. This condition is characterized by stiffening of the joint due to long-term use and is frequently diagnosed in people over the age of 50. However, a small number of younger patients may suffer from osteoarthritis as well. The condition is a result of the deterioration of the cartilage around the bones, allowing the bones to fret directly against one another. Loss of cartilage can lead to pain and stiffness, as well as damage to the bone if it is left untreated.
This autoimmune disorder causes chronic inflammation of the knee joint, which eventually leads to loss of cartilage, reduced motion and pain. Rheumatoid arthritis does not have a cure at this time and it is a progressive disease, which means symptoms tend to worsen over time.
This arthritis occurs after an injury to the knee, such as bone fractures and ligament tears. Even if the original injury heals, it can cause damage to the cartilage of the joint, leading to friction between the bones, pain and motion limitations over time. This type of damage can also be irreversible, and the only effective mode of treatment may be knee replacement surgery.
Approximately 267,000 total knee replacements are performed each year in the United States. Should you be a part of that statistic? Many individuals may find relief through other treatments, such as medication and exercise. However, if you have tried nonsurgical methods and have not seen a reduction in your discomfort or an improvement in your activity level, knee surgery may be the only option to restore the joint and allow you to enjoy your lifestyle to the fullest once again. If you persistently have difficulty walking, going up or down stairs or even getting in and out of chairs without pain, knee replacement surgery may be the right choice for you.
The basic structure of a knee implant consists of a metal femoral component that attaches to the femur as well as a tibial component that connects to the end of the tibia. Between the two lies a plastic spacer that is constructed of polyethylene. There are a variety of different implants within this basic structure that allow your surgeon to tailor your procedure to your precise needs. Some of the factors that will be considered when choosing the right implant for you include your anatomy, the degree of your damage and the stability of your ligaments.
Knee Replacement Surgery Overview
Your surgeon may perform your knee joint replacement under general or regional anesthesia. Either way, you should be completely comfortable throughout the process. Incisions are made on the front of the knee to access the joint and damaged cartilage and bone are removed. The bone is then prepared for the application of the prosthesis, and the components are attached. Your surgeon will bend and straighten the knee to ensure the implant works before closing the incision. Most knee replacement surgeries take between 60 and 90 minutes to complete, depending on the complexity of the operation.
Total Knee Replacement Recovery
You will spend a day or two in the hospital so that you can be monitored and cared for during the initial recovery period. Medication will help to minimize discomfort and blood thinning medications will reduce your risk for blood clots after surgery. You will also wear compression socks after your procedure for this purpose. Movement of the foot and ankle is encouraged, and you will be given physical therapy exercises to do before you leave the hospital. You will need to do these exercises regularly to strengthen and restore motion to the joint as it heals.
In addition to your home exercises, you will attend supervised physical therapy sessions each week where your therapist can track your progress and assign new exercises as appropriate. The length of your recovery will depend on how well you adhere to your rehabilitation program and how quickly your body heals. Most patients get around with a walker or crutches for about two to three weeks and then graduate to a cane for an additional couple of weeks. Most patients get around with a walker or crutches for 2 weeks and a can for another couple of weeks. Most patients are walking unassisted around 4 weeks.
Raising Your Quality of Life
Knee joint replacement is an investment of time but can have a profound impact on your quality of life overall. More than 90 percent of patients that undergo this procedure experience significant or even complete relief from chronic knee pain. To learn more or find out if you are a candidate for total knee replacement, contact the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio today at 419-222-6622.