Knee joint replacement is surgery to replace a knee joint with a man-made (artificial) joint. The artificial joint is called a prosthesis.
See also: Unicompartmental knee arthroplasty
During knee joint replacement surgery, damaged cartilage and bone are removed from the knee joint. Man-made (artificial) pieces, called prostheses, are then placed in the knee. These pieces may be placed in up to three surfaces in the knee joint:
You will not feel any pain during the surgery because you will have one of these two types of anesthesia:
After you receive anesthesia, your surgeon will make a cut over your knee to open it up. This cut is often 8 to 10 inches long. Then your surgeon will:
The surgery usually takes around 2 hours.
Usually, artificial knees have both metal and plastic parts. Some surgeons now use different materials, including metal on metal, ceramic on ceramic, or ceramic on plastic.
The most common reason to have a knee joint replaced is to relieve severe arthritis pain. Your doctor may recommend knee joint replacement if:
Knee joint replacement is usually done in people ages 60 and older. Younger people who have a knee joint replaced may put extra stress on the artificial knee and cause it to wear out early.
See also: Deciding to have knee or hip replacement
Risks of any surgery are:
For more information about joint replacement, see also: Risks of hip and knee replacement.
Always tell your doctor or nurse what drugs you are taking, even drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription.
During the 2 weeks before your surgery:
On the day of your surgery:
See also: Blood donation before surgery
You will stay in the hospital for 3 to 5 days. During that time you will recover from your anesthesia and from the surgery itself. You will be asked to start moving and walking as soon as the first day after surgery.
Full recovery will take 3 months to a year.
Some people need a short stay in a rehabilitation center after they leave the hospital and before they go home. At a rehab center, you will learn how to safely do your daily activities on your own.
For more information, see also:
The results of a total knee replacement are often excellent. The operation relieves pain for most people. Most people do not need help walking after they fully recover.
Most artificial knee joints last 10 to 15 years. Some last as long as 20 years before they loosen and need to be replaced again.
Total knee replacement; Knee arthroplasty; Knee replacement - total; Tricompartmental knee replacement; Subvastus knee replacement; Knee replacement - minimally invasive; Knee arthroplasty - minimally invasive
Crockarell JR, Guyton JL. Arthroplasty of the knee. In: Canale ST, Beatty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 6.
Jones CA, Beaupre LA, Johnston DW, Suarez-Almazor ME. Total joint arthroplasties: current concepts of patient outcomes after surgery. Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 2007; 33(1): 71-86.
Leopold SS. Minimally invasive total knee arthroplasty for osteoarthritis. N Engl J Med. 2009;360:1749-1758.
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Dept of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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