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Knee Replacement

In this page you will find information about a total knee replacement. For further information, contact your GP or healthcare professional.

Brief information about arthritis

Damage to one or more joints caused by a group of conditions is called arthritis.

Stiffness and pain in the joint is the result of arthritis gradually wearing away the normal cartilage that covers and protects the joint surface. This leads to the bone underneath becoming damaged.

The gradual wear and tear of a joint is associated with the most common type of arthritis which is osteoarthritis.

Some other types of arthritis result in inflammation of the joints.

How you can benefit from this surgery?

A successful total knee replacement should result in reduced pain and the ability to walk more easily.

Are there alternative procedures to a total knee replacement?

Pain can be controlled using painkillers such as paracetamol and anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen.

Symptoms can be relieved by including supplements in your diet, but always check with your GP before taking supplements.

Walking is often easier with a walking stick and your knee may feel stronger when wearing an elasticated knee support.

Knee stiffness can be alleviated by regular moderate exercise.

A steroid injection into your knee joint can often help control the pain and stiffness.

As your arthritis gets worse, it is likely that these measures will become less effective.

Unicompartmental and Patello-femoral knee replacements are partial knee replacements which are available for patients with osteoarthritis that is limited to just one part of the knee.

What does a total knee replacement involve?

A selection of anaesthetic techniques is possible for the operation which generally takes between an hour and an hour and a half.

During the operation the damaged joint surfaces will be removed through an incision on the front of your knee. Your surgeon will replace these with an artificial knee joint. This is made of metal or plastic, or a combination of these materials.

The knee replacement is then bonded directly to the bone using its special coating or acrylic cement.

Figure 1
Typical knee replacement joint
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What complications could you experience?

General complications include:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Infection of the surgical wound site
  • Blood clots
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Scarring
  • Chest infection
  • Pain
  • Bleeding

Specific complications include:

  • Damage to ligaments or tendons
  • Infection in the knee
  • Continued discomfort in the knee
  • Sever pain, stiffness and loss of use of the knee (complex regional pain syndrome)
  • Damage to blood vessels
  • Mechanical loosening of the knee implant
  • Dislocation
  • Damage to nerves

How long will you take to recover?

Most people are able to go home after three to seven days.

Crutches or walking sticks will be needed for a few weeks.

With the help of regular exercise you should be able to resume normal activities as soon as possible.

Remember to get advice from your healthcare professional or your GP before you begin exercising.

In general, most people make a good recovery. They suffer less pain and find movement easier. Your artificial knee will never be quite the same as your normal knee. It is advisable to avoid kneeling down as it usually feels uncomfortable.

It is not unusual for a knee replacement to wear out over time.

To view our 'Physiotherapy advice prior to your total knee replacement' brochure please click here

To summarise

A previous knee injury or rheumatoid arthritis can be the cause of arthritis in some cases. However, the condition usually happens without a cause. A total knee replacement should reduce the severe pain, stiffness and disability associated with arthritis, resulting in less pain and the ability to walk more easily.

References: 

EIDO Healthcare Limited - The operation and treatment information on this website is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by Aspen Healthcare. 

The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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