Quality of life is never to be underestimated, and when a knee problem is so debilitating that it is impossible to enjoy hobbies that are important to you, it is crucial to seek medical help.
Fortunately, before even considering knee replacement surgery as an option, generally physicians will try to find other ways of assuaging the pain. For instance, physical therapy, analgesics and walking aids might be the answer to many knee problems, including those stemming from arthritis.
However, it is also nice to know that when other treatments prove to be futile, knee replacement surgery is an option. So prevalent is this surgery, in fact, that approximately 323,448 total knee replacements were performed in 2001. Knee replacement can help renew the ability to participate in many normal, daily activities such as gardening, going on walks, golfing and overall mobility. It is important to try other options before knee replacement surgery, however, since they only last for 15 to 20 years and are not easily replaced. For this reason, physicians are very selective about the types of candidates for the surgery.
Who is a candidate?
Total knee replacement is reserved for the patient who has not benefited from conservative treatments and whose quality of life is suffering due to the debilitation caused by knee pain. Examples include those experiencing pain at night and those who cannot perform their normal, everyday activities.
Knee replacement is also generally reserved for those who are over 60 years of age who are in relatively good health. Generally, this means that they maintain a healthy weight, do not suffer from cardiovascular problems, and are not suffering from a terminal illness.
Who is not a candidate?
As mentioned before, to receive knee replacement surgery, you must be a good candidate. If not, surgery could prove counterproductive. For some, knee replacement surgery is not in their best interest. Those who are too young (except for those who suffer from severe rheumatoid arthritis) should consider other types of treatment for knee pain, since after 15 or 20 years, the prosthesis will need to be replaced. Unfortunately, the bone will need to be cut short to make room for a new prosthesis, and function and mobility is likely to be damaged during the second operation. Those who are overweight are not good candidates, as the prosthesis (just as the natural knee) is designed to carry a weight in proportion to the person’s body. Too much weight on the prosthesis can cause it to be damaged, and subsequent knee surgeries will be necessary. Those with cardiovascular problems and terminal illnesses are also not good candidates, as the surgery may be too much for the body to handle. Also, those with poor skin coverage over the knee are not good candidates, as surgery could impair movement of the knee.
Our approach to total knee replacement
- Incisions will be as long as needed to place components correctly
- Navigation is a helpful tool for greater surgical precision and a reasonable decrease in incision length
During knee replacement surgery the knee is opened up, and the arthritic cartilage is removed. The prosthesis is then "glued" to the bones with special, surgical cement. The knee is then sutured back together.
Usually, a hospital stay for knee replacement surgery lasts between four and five days. During your time at the hospital, your leg will be attached to a device called continual passive movement (CPM), which will move your knee to prevent stiffness. Overall, full recovery can take anywhere from two months to one year, although dramatic improvements should be seen sooner than that.
Types of knee replacement surgery
- Femoral - replaces arthritic portion of thigh bone
- Tibial - replaces arthritic portion of shin bone
- Tibial insert - replaces cartilage and acts as shock absorber
- Patella - replaces knee cap
Uni-Compartmental Knee Replacement
Uni-compartmental knee replacement is a minimally invasive surgery that removes and resurfaces damaged articular cartilage in a single area of the knee. The goal of this procedure is a quick return to activity and pain relief. Benefits include maintaining two-thirds of the natural knee and relieving pain through minimally invasive techniques.
During the procedure, an incision is made. The surgeon then removes the arthritic surface at the end of the thigh bone or femur and prepares the bone for a new covering. Then the femoral component is attached, and the arthritic surface on top of the shin bone is removed. A metal tray (tibial tray) is placed on top of the remaining bone, and the tibial insert is locked into the tray. Finally, the incision is closed.