(Knee Arthroplasty; Total Knee Replacement)
Knee replacement, also called arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure to replace a knee damaged by disease or injury.
Recovery may take several weeks to months depending on your overall health.
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Reasons for Procedure
This is done if you have chronic pain and stiffness in the knee joint that limits activities.
Knee replacement surgery is most often done to:
- Ease knee pain and disability due to arthritis or previous severe knee injury
- Correct a knee deformity
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Excess bleeding
- Blood clots
- Chronic weakness in the knee joint
- Worsening or unchanged pain
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Poor nutrition
- History of blood clots
- Long-term illness
- Use of certain medications
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor will likely do the following:
Before surgery, you will need to:
- Arrange for a ride home.
- Arrange for help at home while you recover.
- Talk to your doctor about any allergies you have.
- Ask your doctor about assistive devices you will need.
- If you are overweight, lose weight. This will help to decrease the amount of stress on your new joint.
- Install safety equipment in the bathroom, shower, and on the stairs.
- Prepare a bedroom on the first floor if possible. Climbing stairs will be difficult at first.
Talk to your doctor about any medications, herbs, or supplements you are taking. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your surgery, unless told otherwise by your doctor.
Description of the Procedure
A cut will be made in your skin. The damaged cartilage and bone will be removed. The remaining bone will be prepared to receive the new joint made from material such as plastic and metal. The artificial joint will be placed in the proper position. It may be cemented within the bone. The incision will be closed with staples. A drain will be left in to allow extra fluid to flow out.
How Long Will It Take?
About 2 hours.
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will block pain during the procedure. You will have pain after the procedure. Ask your doctor about medication to help manage pain.
Average Hospital Stay
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is 3-4 days. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications arise.
At the Hospital
After the procedure, you will be taken to recovery and monitored closely. The staff may give you:
- Pain medication
- Antibiotics to prevent infection
- Medication that prevents blood clots
While you are recovering at the hospital, you may need to use a continuous passive motion machine, which is designed to:
- Slowly move your knee
- Restore function
- Decrease swelling
- Improve circulation
During your recovery, you will need to:
- Move your foot and ankle to increase blood flow back to your heart.
- Wear support stockings. These may help prevent blood clots from forming in your legs.
- Work with a physical therapist. You may start the day after surgery. You will learn safe ways to move your knee and support your weight.
- You will learn how to use a walker, crutches, or other support devices.
To help ensure a smooth recovery at home, take these steps:
- Start working with a physical therapist once you are instructed to. The therapist will focus on balance, range-of-motion, and strength training.
- Maintain a healthy weight after surgery.
- Follow your doctor's instructions.
Within 6 weeks, you should be able to go back to light activities and driving. You may feel a soft clicking in the joint when walking or bending. Continue to work with the physical therapist. Water-based exercises may help to improve joint pain, swelling around the knee, and range of motion.
Antibiotics may be needed before certain dental procedures or surgeries now that you have an artificial joint. This will prevent possible infections from entering the bloodstream. Let your dentist or doctor know that you have an artificial joint.
Call Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision site
- Swelling, redness, or pain in your legs, calves, or feet
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
- Nausea and vomiting
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- A chalky white, blue, or black appearance in your leg, foot, or toes
- Numbness or tingling in your leg, foot, or toes
- Pain, burning, urgency, frequency of urination, or persistent bleeding in the urine
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Knee replacement surgery procedure. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/orthopaedic/knee_replacement_surgery_procedure_92,P07673/. Accessed March 27, 2018.
Total knee arthroplasty. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T360995/Total-knee-arthroplasty. Updated March 13, 2018. Accessed March 27, 2018.
Total knee replacement. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00389. Updated August 2015. Accessed March 27, 2018.
4/16/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T360995/Total-knee-arthroplasty: Harmer AR, Naylor JM, Crosbie J, Russell T. Land-based versus water-based rehabilitation following total knee replacement: a randomized, single-blind trial. Arthritis Rheum. 2009;61:184-191.
6/2/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T360995/Total-knee-arthroplasty: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
9/16/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T360995/Total-knee-arthroplasty: Abdallah FW, Chan VW, et al. The analgesic effects of proximal, distal, or no sciatic nerve block on posterior knee pain after total knee arthroplasty: a double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Anesthesiology. 2014 Aug 5. [Epub ahead of print].
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT, OCS Last Updated: 9/16/2014