Knee replacement surgery — also known as knee arthroplasty (ARTH-row-plas-tee) — can help relieve pain and restore function in severely diseased knee joints. During knee replacement, a surgeon cuts away damaged bone and cartilage from your thighbone, shinbone and kneecap and replaces it with an artificial joint made of metal alloys, high-grade plastics and polymers.
The first artificial knees were little more than crude hinges. Now, you and your doctor can choose from a variety of designs that take into account your age, weight, activity level and overall health. Most knee replacement joints attempt to act like your knee, with its ability to roll and glide as it bends.
The most common reason for knee replacement surgery is to relieve severe pain caused by osteoarthritis. People who need knee replacement surgery usually have problems walking, climbing stairs, and getting in and out of chairs. Some also have moderate or severe knee pain at rest.
An orthopedic surgeon performs knee replacement procedures. Before the procedure, the surgeon takes your medical history and performs a physical examination to assess your knee's range of motion, stability and strength. X-rays can help determine the extent of knee damage.
Knee replacement surgery requires anesthesia to make you comfortable during surgery. Your input and personal preference help the team decide whether to use general anesthesia, which makes you unconscious, or spinal or epidural anesthesia, which leaves you awake but unable to feel pain from your waist down.
Your doctor or anesthesiologist might advise you to stop taking certain medications and dietary supplements before your surgery. You'll likely be instructed not to eat anything after midnight before your surgery.
For several weeks after the procedure, you might need to use crutches or a walker. Make arrangements for transportation home from the hospital and help with everyday tasks, such as cooking, bathing and doing laundry. If you live alone, your surgeon's staff or hospital discharge planner can suggest a temporary caretaker.
To make your home safer and easier to navigate during recovery, consider making the following improvements: