The Facts About Knee Replacement Surgery
If you have recently spoken to an orthopaedic surgeon about the possibility of undergoing a knee replacement, you are not alone. Statistics indicate that, worldwide, around 2,6 million people undergo this procedure every year, and that figure is growing. While the underlying conditions that necessitate such action vary, they all have one thing in common. They result in chronic knee pain, a symptom experienced by around 40% of individuals aged 55 and over. Once that pain becomes disabling, and painkillers no longer provide relief, it is generally time to seek the help of a surgeon.
Although injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout are among the reasons for such pain, a knee replacement is most often necessary in patients with osteoarthritis. In a healthy joint, the terminal surfaces of the femur and tibia are protected by a layer of cartilage that reduces the friction between them and enables smooth articulation. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage layers become eroded, exposing the underlying bone to damage by frictional forces.
In the early stages, small pieces of loose cartilage and chipped bone fragments accumulate in the joint. However, although this may lead to discomfort and swelling, it will often be several years before it becomes necessary to resort to knee replacement surgery. Instead, a surgeon may suggest an arthroscopic procedure to flush out the offending chips of bone and cartilage. The process is minimally invasive and will generally be performed at a day clinic with no need for an overnight stay.
Eventually, analgaesics and steroids can no longer control the pain, and mobility becomes increasingly compromised. The only viable option is to fit a prosthetic joint with a procedure known as total knee arthroplasty (TKA). If only one of the bones is severely damaged, it may be sufficient to replace only the affected surface. However, most surgeons now advocate a total knee replacement to ensure the best possible long-term outcome.
A surgeon can perform the procedure in one of two ways. Initially, the only option was to expose the entire joint. However, many surgeons have discontinued open surgery in favour of a minimally invasive alternative. In this case, an arthroscope provides a view of the joint’s interior. The instruments are introduced via two tiny keyhole incisions. The arthroscopic approach limits the risk of excessive blood loss and infection while also reducing post-op recovery time.
Knee Replacement Surgery Experts
The design and composition of prosthetic joints have improved steadily, and knee replacement is now considered one of the most successful surgical interventions. With due care, a modern prosthesis can provide 20 to 30 years of service. The procedure is performed routinely by a world-class orthopaedic team at the Life Wilgers Hospital in Pretoria.