Everything You Need to Know About Your Knee Replacement Surgery
The first thing you need to accept, should your doctor suggest that you may require knee replacement surgery, is that this is a procedure that has been thoroughly tried and tested over a period of more than fifty years, and one that has an excellent success rate. Your doctor will have made this suggestion because you have been experiencing pain in one or both of your knees, as well as difficulty in bending and flexing them, and both of these problems have become more pronounced over time. The explanation for these symptoms is that the cartilage that protects the surfaces of the bones that must articulate during movement have become damaged, which results in a painful grating sensation, rather than a smooth movement.
In most patients who require knee replacement surgery, the pain and loss of mobility can be attributed to deterioration in the bones of the joint and surrounding tissue caused by the condition known as osteoarthritis, although accidental injuries can produce similar damage. The procedure, also known as knee arthroplasty, was first introduced in 1968, and involves the use of artificial implanted components to replace the natural joint tissue damaged by disease or injury.
The extent to which manufactured implantable components may be required will be determined by the degree of damage found by your surgeon in the affected joint. Subsequent to his or her findings, your specialist will then need to decide which of the two types of knee replacement surgeries will be the better option. In practical terms, that decision amounts to whether it will be best to replace the damaged joint entirely or just a part of it. Statistically, in about 90% of cases, the surgeon will choose to adopt the former course of action.
Although this is the more radical of the two options, its long-term results are excellent. Statistics show that, in about 90% of all cases treated, the total implant can be expected to continue providing pain relief and improved mobility for about 10 years. Moreover, as many as 80% actually remain functional for up to twice as long. On that encouraging note, it’s time to take a closer look at what your knee replacement surgery will involve.
On referral to an orthopaedic specialist, the first step will be to confirm a diagnosis, and in addition to X-rays and a CT scan, it is likely the surgeon will also wish to perform an exploratory procedure known as arthroscopy. A thin tube with a light and miniature video camera in its tip is inserted through a tiny incision and its images displayed on a monitor, thereby allowing the surgeon to view the joint and surrounding tissues directly, and to assess the location and see the extent of the damage. Based upon the findings, he or she can then decide whether partial (PKR) or total (TKR) knee replacement surgery may be the better option.
In some cases, neither may be indicated and a simpler repair procedure, perhaps to trim a torn meniscus or to wash out loose particles of bone, can then be carried out as an extension of the arthroscopic examination. Where the findings indicate that only a prosthesis will provide the necessary relief, a larger incision will be required in order to expose the components of the joint more completely.
Each case is to some extent unique, so the precise amount of bone and cartilage that may need to be removed during knee replacement surgery will vary. In a TKR, the thighbone or femur is fitted with a metal covering, while the shin bone or tibia receives a polyethylene covering. In some cases, the undersurface of the kneecap or patella will also be replaced with the plastic polymer. The result is a joint that no longer grinds and causes severe pain when bent or flexed, but which articulates smoothly.
During a post-operative stay of three to five days in hospital, you can expect to receive physiotherapy, including weight-bearing exercises, and you should be able to walk, with the aid of a stick if necessary, by the time you are discharged. The physiotherapy will be continued on an out-patient basis, and you should be fully mobile and able to resume your normal lifestyle within eight weeks of undergoing your knee replacement surgery
This is a procedure that offers life-changing results and one for which many GPs now refer their patients to the arthroplasty specialists at Life Wilgers Hospital.