Some Things to Know Before Having a Knee Replacement
The traditional lifespan of three score and ten was already long enough for human joints to display signs of wear. Today, however, average life expectancy has increased by a decade or more in most first-world countries, and even centenarians have long ceased to be a curiosity. Furthermore, lifestyle changes have led to an increased incidence of joint problems among younger subjects. It is, therefore, fortunate that surgeons have been so successful in perfecting the art of knee replacement.
Perhaps you have reason to believe that you may be one of the more than 1,3 million people worldwide who will undergo this operation during the next 12 months. If so, you are sure to be wondering what exactly this procedure might entail. Let us examine some of the reasons for performing this procedure and what a typical patient can expect. For a start, it will be comforting to learn that the world’s orthopaedic specialists are unanimous in their belief that this is the discipline’s most successful intervention of all time.
A knee replacement can be life-changing, often providing freedom from chronic pain and swelling and improved mobility for as much as three decades. Naturally, results vary, and a small percentage of patients may require further surgery to perform necessary revisions.
Injuries, abnormal bone growth, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis all cause pain and swelling and compromise mobility and may necessitate undergoing this procedure. However, osteoarthritis, in which the protective layer of cartilage on articulating surfaces becomes eroded, exposing the underlying bone to damage, is the most common reason surgeons perform a knee replacement.
In the weeks leading up to surgery, gentle exercise like swimming and walking will strengthen the muscles necessary to help support the prosthetic joint. You can expect to spend three to five days in the hospital. The surgeon will excise the damaged surfaces during the operation, replacing them with metal prostheses cemented in position and inserting a plastic spacer between them to ensure smooth articulation.
The surgeon may perform open surgery but, where feasible, might opt for the less invasive arthroscopic approach. With the help of a physiotherapist, following your knee replacement, you should be able to walk without walking aids within six weeks. However, you should be aware that a full recovery can take up to two years, and your progress will depend on the effort you put into your rehabilitation.
South Africans undergoing this procedure should consider asking their GP to refer them to Pretoria’s Life Wilgers Hospital, where the orthopaedic department has earned the status of a national and international referral centre for patients in need of a shoulder, hip, or knee replacement.