More than 600,000 knee replacements are performed in America each year. The most common question is “is it time for me to have my knee replaced?” That is where the discussion between you and your orthopedic surgeon needs to be clear. Yes, a knee replacement can restore quality to your life if it is missing. But, you need realistic expectations about what is involved, how long it will take to recover and how that process will look. I try to have a very straight forward conversation with all my patients about these things prior to surgery.
Most patients having complete knee replacements have osteoarthritis. More than 42 million people in the United States are diagnosed with arthritis. This is a normal wear and tear process of the articular cartilage on the ends of the bones in your knee. Like the tread on a tire you only get so many miles and then you need new ones. Most patients are older than 50 years of age but each patient is considered individually.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
If you can’t do the things you think you should be able to do because of the pain in your knee, then you are probably a good candidate for a knee replacement surgery. The patients who benefit from knee replacement usually have:
- Severe pain or stiffness that limits activities
- Pain that interferes with sleep
- Swelling and inflammation that has not improved with rest and medications
- Deformity such as bowed legs
- Failure to improve after multiple non surgical treatments such as medications, injections, or physical therapy
A knee replacement surgery removes the ends of the thigh and leg bone and replaces them with a metal alloy cap and places a plastic bushing between the two components. The kneecap or patella is routinely replaced too. Most techniques today involve a minimally invasive approach and have excellent outcomes. While there are many different brands of knee replacements the most important thing is how they are put in and if your surgeon has good experience with them.
While the surgery can be performed in about an hour, your hard work will take a few weeks. With our newer pain management techniques most of my patients are up on crutches the same day and often walking without them in a few days. Within weeks you can begin to resume many normal activities.
The main goal of knee replacement surgery is to relieve pain and restore activity, so you can get around better. Most results have to do with realistic expectations. Ask others who have had knee replacements and I think you will find most people are glad they did. Ask questions and get answers so you can be a part of the decision making process in your healthcare. If you have a question or a great story about knee replacement surgery let me know.