What is Knee Replacement Surgery?

Total knee replacements are among the most successful procedures in all of medicine. The most common reason for knee replacement surgery is to repair joint damage caused by osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Knee replacement surgery, also known as knee arthroplasty, involves removing damaged bone and cartilage from your thighbone (femur), shinbone and kneecap and replacing it with a prosthetic joint designed to mimic the function of your knee. The prosthetic joint is made of high-grade metal alloys, plastics and polymers and will relieve pain and restore the function of a severely diseased knee joint.

Are you a candidate for knee replacement?

Knee replacement surgery may be recommended when nonoperative treatments like medications, injections, physical therapy and walking supports are no longer helpful. Knee replacement surgery is a safe and effective way to alleviate pain and discomfort of osteoarthritic conditions, correct leg deformity, and get you back to enjoying daily activities again. Your doctor may recommend knee replacement surgery if you are:

  • Limited in daily activities due to severe knee pain or stiffness
  • Experiencing moderate to severe knee pain when resting either day or night
  • Exhibiting knee deformity, such as bowing in or out of your knee
  • Experiencing chronic knee inflammation and swelling that does not improve with rest or medications

The decision to perform replacement surgery is generally based on pain and disability. Most patients who undergo total knee replacement are age 50 to 80.

What to Expect After Surgery

Knee replacement surgery is performed in a hospital where you will likely stay for one to three days. It is normal and expected to experience some pain or discomfort after surgery, however your hospital care team will provide medication to keep you comfortable.

Physical therapy is a critical part of the rehabilitation process and generally begins the day of surgery. The physical therapist will evaluate your range of motion and as soon as you are able you will stand to begin to bear weight. You will learn specific exercises to strengthen your leg and restore range of motion to allow walking and other normal daily activities.

Typically, patients resume most daily activities four to six weeks after knee replacement surgery. After you have recovered, you can enjoy a variety of low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming, golfing, or biking. However, higher impact activities like jogging, skiing, tennis, and sports involving contact or jumping should be avoided until discussed with and approved by your doctor.