Total Knee Replacement

Are you a candidate for total knee replacement surgery?

Your knee can become damaged by osteoarthritis resulting from wear and tear over time, by rheumatoid arthritis, or by an injury. If you are experiencing consistent pain in your daily activities, you should be evaluated by an orthopedic specialist. Rest, medication, and therapy are the first lines of treatment, but for those whose cartilage is too worn or whose bone structures are too damaged to respond to conservative measures, a total knee replacement (knee arthroplasty) may be the best option. Total knee replacement surgery is generally reserved for those over the age of 50, but total knee replacement surgery can also be performed on younger people in special circumstances. Knee replacement surgery continues to be one of the most successful of all orthopedic surgeries.

The total knee replacement procedure

In performing a total knee replacement, your surgeon will remove damaged or diseased bone and cartilage from the top of your tibia, or shin bone, and implant a flat metal plate and stem. Then the surgical team will clip a synthetic insert into this tibial tray to function as the new weight-bearing surface. Your surgeon will then shape the lower bone surface of the femur, or thigh bone, and attach a contoured metal shield that will move smoothly against the new surface of your lower leg. Your original knee cap may be retained or replaced with a synthetic one. The operation will last about two hours.

Depending on your condition, your Emory orthopedic surgeon may elect to use the latest computer technology to aid in the alignment of your implant. In computer-assisted surgery, infrared and electromagnetic devices create images of your knee that the surgeon can view on a monitor during the procedure. Another option may be a less invasive surgery technique that allows the surgeon to use smaller incisions in certain patients who have uncomplicated conditions.

What to expect from total knee replacement surgery

Over the last two decades, improvements in materials and techniques have made total knee replacement a common and highly successful surgery, with around 300,000 being performed every year in the U.S. After your operation, you will remain in the hospital several days and will need crutches or a walker for about three to six weeks. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, more than 90% of those who have this surgery experience a dramatic reduction of knee pain and a significant improvement in their ability to perform common activities of daily living. Activities like walking, golf, and swimming are recommended, but you'll need to avoid high-impact activities like jogging. Several knee replacement designs have shown survival rates of more than 90% after 15 years.