(Knee Arthroplasty; Total Knee Replacement)
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Knee replacement is surgery to replace a knee that is damaged by disease or injury. It is also called arthroplasty.
Reasons for Procedure
This surgery is done in people who have knee pain that limits activities. The pain may be from arthritis or injury. Surgery may also be done to correct a knee that is bowing in or out.
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Images of the knee will be taken to help choose an implant. This can be done with:
Description of the Procedure
A cut will be made in the skin. The damaged cartilage and bone will be removed. The bone that is left will be prepared to receive the new joint. It is made from material such as plastic and metal. The artificial joint will be placed in the correct place. 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 surgery. There will be pain during recovery. Medicine and home care can help.
Average Hospital Stay
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. Most people stay for 3 to 4 days. People who have problems may need to stay longer.
At the Hospital
After the procedure, the staff will:
It will take several weeks to months for the incision and joint area to fully heal. Exercises will help with recovery. Some physical activities will need to be limited. Help will be needed to do daily tasks. Returning to work may take six weeks or more.
Antibiotics may be needed before dental procedures and surgeries. This helps lower the risk of infection in the new joint.
Call Your Doctor
Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help 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 website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/arthroscopy. Accessed March 27, 2020.
A patient's guide to total joint replacement and complete care. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/ccf/media/Files/Ortho/patient-education/total-joint-replacement-patient-guide.pdf?la=en. Updated 2015. Accessed March 30, 2020.
Total knee arthroplasty. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/procedure/total-knee-arthroplasty . Updated January 11, 2020. Accessed March 27, 2020.
Total knee replacement. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
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Updated August 2015. Accessed March 27, 2020.
Last reviewed February 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Last Updated: 3/30/2020
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