Knee Replacement Frequently Asked Questions

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What are signs you may need a knee replacement?

 

It might be time to consider a knee replacement if:

  • Pain that comes with activity or limits what you can do
  • Your knee aches during and after exercise
  • You’re no longer as mobile as you would like to be
  • Medication isn't delivering enough relief
  • Your knee stiffens up from sitting in a car or a movie theater
  • You feel pain in rainy weather
  • The pain prevents you from sleeping
  • You are having difficulty bending your knee
  • Your knees are stiff or swollen
  • You have difficulty walking or climbing stairs
  • It is difficult getting in or out of chairs or a bathtub
  • You experience morning stiffness
  • You feel "grating" of your joint
  • You've had a previous injury to the anterior crucial ligament (ACL) of your knee

What types of knee replacement do you offer?

 

UW Health orthopedic surgeons continue to evaluate and refine current and new methods of total hip replacement surgery.

 

After an evaluation, a treatment recommendation is made based on each patient’s individual needs and conditions. In total knee replacement, the surgeon replaces the surfaces of the thigh bone and shin bone that connects to the knee. If arthritis affects only one side of the knee, then partial knee replacement may be recommended. In some cases, robotic-assisted surgery is used. Some patients may be able to have both (bilateral) knees replaced at the same time or have same-day (outpatient) knee replacement surgery.

 

Total Knee Replacement

 

What is a total knee replacement?

 

A knee replacement is a surgical procedure to resurface a knee damaged by arthritis. Metal and plastic parts are used to cap the ends of the bones that form the knee joint along with the kneecap.

 

When is a total knee replacement needed?

 

A total knee replacement surgery may be recommended for patients with severe arthritis or a severe knee injury who have chronic, constant pain, difficulty walking or climbing stairs and pain while resting.

 

What are the benefits of total knee replacement?

 

Total knee replacement can increase mobility and decrease pain in people who have an arthritic knee joint.

 

What are the risks of a total knee replacement surgery?

 

Knee replacement surgery, like any surgery, has possible risks and complications including infection, blood clots in the leg vein or lungs, heart attack, stroke or nerve damage.

 

How do I prepare for total knee replacement surgery?

 

Before your surgery, talk to your doctor. Learn what to expect before, during and after surgery so you can be prepared both physically and mentally.

 

The UW Health joint replacement surgeons and orthopedic team have developed a care plan to guide you through your preparation, hospital stay and recovery from surgery.

 

Step 1: Your Care Team and Support Person
Our goal is to provide you with the care and support needed to get through your joint replacement and back to the things you love to do. A Total Joints Nurse Coordinator is available to ensure a smooth transition from surgery to recovery. We also encourage you to choose a family member or friend who can act as a personal support person or "coach" as you go through the joint replacement process.

 

Step 2: Joints 101
Joints 101 is a pre-surgery class that gives you and your support person the opportunity to learn what to expect throughout the joint replacement process. You will get information to prepare for your joint replacement, learn what your rehabilitation will be like, meet other people going through joint replacement surgery and have an opportunity to get your questions answered. Your attendance is strongly encouraged.

 

Step 3: TotalCare for Surgery Patients
Patients who are scheduled for surgery have access to this free online educational system that provides you and anyone you designate with information before and after surgery. TotalCare includes checklists and reminders to guide you through the joint replacement process, educational materials, informative videos and patient self-reports that provide your orthopedic team with feedback.

 

What happens during surgery for a total knee replacement?

 

A knee replacement usually takes 1 to 2 hours. The doctor will make an incision on the top of your knee and remove the damaged cartilage and bone. The doctor will then attach the metal implants to the ends of the thigh and calf bones. A plastic spacer goes between the metal pieces and helps the new joint move smoothly.

 

How big will the incision be?

 

The standard incision size can be up to 10 inches. A minimally invasive procedure can result in incisions as short as 4 inches.

 

What happens after surgery?

 

Rehabilitation begins almost immediately after your wake up from surgery. Within the first 24 hours, you will begin to stand and walk using an assistive device (walker or crutches) with the help of a physical therapist (PT). They will show you how to get in and out of your bed and how to move around using either a walker or crutches.

 

A nurse will help you with tasks such as changing the bandage, dressing, bathing and using the toilet.

 

Can I go home after surgery?

 

Most people will be able to be discharged directly to their home. For those who don’t have a support system at home or if the surgery was more complicated, your doctor may recommend you first stay in a rehabilitation or nursing facility.

 

When do patients start rehabilitation?

 

You will begin rehabilitation one day after surgery and will continue after leaving the hospital for the next several months.

 

How long does it take to recover from a total knee replacement?

 

Most patients are able to care for themselves and resume normal daily activities six weeks after surgery. Driving is possible between three and six weeks if you can bend your knee far enough to sit in a car, have enough muscle control to operate the brakes and accelerator and are no longer taking narcotic pain medications. It may take between six months and a year to make a full recovery.

 

Partial Knee Replacement

 

What is a partial knee replacement?

 

A partial knee replacement is another choice for some patients who have osteoarthritis (normal aging that causes stiffness and pain) of the knee. This surgery can be done when the damage is in a limited area of the knee. It is a minimally invasive procedure where only the damaged part of the knee joint is removed and replaced with man-made materials.

 

What are signs you may need a partial knee replacement?

 

If damage is limited to one compartment of your knee, a partial knee replacement might be best for you. Other factors to consider:

  • Pain continues even after taking anti-inflammatory drugs
  • You maintain a healthy weight
  • An X-ray of the knee has determined your eligible for a partial replacement
  • You have an intact anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), plenty of range of motion, damage to only one compartment and a stable knee

When is a partial knee replacement appropriate?

 

A partial knee replacement might be recommended if you have damage to a limited area of your knee versus multiple areas.

 

What is the difference between a partial and total knee replacement?

 

Our knee is made up of three compartments – inside, outside and underneath the knee cap. If you have arthritis or damage to one compartment of the knee, you could be a candidate for a partial knee replacement. If more than one compartment of the knee has pain or damage, a total knee replacement will be needed.

 

What are the benefits of a partial knee replacement surgery?

 

A partial knee replacement is a minimally invasive procedure where only the damaged part of the knee joint is removed. The main goal is to relieve severe knee pain. It also offers additional benefits over total knee replacement including:

  • Preservation of all healthy bone and ligaments
  • Less tissue trauma
  • Reduced blood loss
  • Reduced post-operative pain
  • Faster rehabilitation and recovery
  • Improved range of motion in the knee

What are the risks of a partial knee replacement?

  • Infection
  • Blood clots and injuries to a blood vessel or a nerve
  • You may experience some knee joint stiffness
  • Late complications including infection and failure, loosening or dislocation of the prosthesis
  • Continued pain

How do I prepare for a partial knee replacement surgery?

 

Before your partial knee replacement surgery, talk to your doctor. Learn what to expect before, during and after surgery so you can be prepared both physically and mentally.

 

The UW Health joint replacement surgeons and orthopedic team have developed a care plan to guide you through your preparation, hospital stay and recovery from surgery.

 

Step 1: Your Care Team and Support Person
Our goal is to provide you with the care and support needed to get through your joint replacement and back to the things you love to do. A Total Joints Nurse Coordinator is available to ensure a smooth transition from surgery to recovery. We also encourage you to choose a family member or friend who can act as a personal support person or "coach" as you go through the joint replacement process.

 

Step 2: Joints 101
Joints 101 is a pre-surgery class that gives you and your support person the opportunity to learn what to expect throughout the joint replacement process. You will get information to prepare for your joint replacement, learn what your rehabilitation will be like, meet other people going through joint replacement surgery and have an opportunity to get your questions answered. Your attendance is strongly encouraged.

 

Step 3: TotalCare for Surgery Patients
Patients who are scheduled for surgery have access to this free online educational system that provides you and anyone you designate with information before and after surgery. TotalCare includes checklists and reminders to guide you through the joint replacement process, educational materials, informative videos and patient self-reports that provide your orthopedic team with feedback.

 

What happens during partial knee replacement surgery?

 

The surgeon will make a small incision to get to the damaged compartment of the knee. The damaged area is removed and the surgeon will insert the replacement which is sized to the patient’s joint. Cement is used to secure in place and the incision is closed.

 

How big will the incision be?

 

A partial knee replacement is a minimally invasive procedure that allows an artificial knee to be inserted through a 3- to 3.5-inch incision.

 

What happens after surgery?

 

Recovery after a partial knee replacement is faster than for those who have a total knee replacement. Many people will be able to walk without a cane or walker within three to four weeks after surgery. You will need physical therapy for four to six months.

 

Can I go home after surgery?

 

You will need to walk with the assistance of crutches, cane or walker and have someone at home to help you for the next week or two but you will not need to go to a rehabilitation center.

 

When do patients start rehabilitation?

 

You will begin rehabilitation one day after surgery and will continue after leaving the hospital for the next several months.

 

How long does it take to recover from knee surgery?

 

Most patients are able to care for themselves and resume normal daily activities six weeks after surgery. Driving is possible between three and six weeks if you can bend your knee far enough to sit in a car, have enough muscle control to operate the brakes and accelerator and are no longer taking narcotic pain medications. It may take between six months and a year to make a full recovery.

 

Minimally Invasive Knee Replacement

 

The goal of knee replacement surgery is to provide the patient with a pain-free knee that allows for the return to daily activities and lasts for a long time.

 

Unlike traditional knee replacement surgery, minimally invasive knee replacement surgery uses an incision that is about half the size of the one used with a traditional knee replacement and fewer muscles are cut and detached leading to less pain and reduced recovery time.

 

The hospital stay after minimally invasive surgery is similar in length to the stay after traditional knee replacement surgery and you will follow a similar rehabilitation schedule to increase your range of motion and restore your strength.

 

Unlike traditional total knee replacement, the minimally invasive technique is not suitable for all patients. Please discuss with your doctor if you are a candidate.

 

Bilateral (Double) Knee Replacement

 

A bilateral knee replacement is when both knees are replaced with artificial joints either on the same day or staged so one knee is done first and the other is replaced several days, weeks or months later. People with severe arthritis in both knees are often good candidates for this as it will allow the gait to be restored evenly.

 

A bilateral knee replacement is typically done for younger patients who are active and have strength in the muscles, ligaments and tendons around their knees.