As one of the largest and most complex joints of the human body, many of us experience some sort of problem with our knees during our lifetimes. These issues can range from mild pain caused by a sprain or slight inflammation in the joint due to an injury, or debilitating pain caused by chronic conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis. Sometimes, the severity of the damage to the joint may require a serious intervention such as knee replacement surgery.
Now, this might sound like a large and daunting procedure, so to help you understand it better, as well as what to expect, we answer a few common questions regarding knee replacement surgery.
Q: What is knee replacement surgery?
A: The purpose of this procedure, also known as arthroplasty, is to restore the functionality of the joint, if the condition of the joint has degraded to such a level that other, less-invasive means of treatment (such as medicine, arthroscopy, or physical therapy) will no longer have the desired effect. The replacement is done either by resurfacing the bones in the joint, or by replacing the joint with an artificial (prosthetic) joint.
Q: When is knee replacement surgery needed?
A: When you get to a point where the knee joint is so worn that it affects your mobility and you experience pain even when keeping still, replacement surgery might be necessary. Conditions that might lead to such severe damage of the joint include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Blood supply problems that lead to the bone in the joint dying off
- Joint deformities that come with cartilage loss and pain
- Disorders that affect the bone growth
- Severe injuries
Q: Is there any alternative procedure?
A: Joint replacement is often the last resort. If a specialist feels that this procedure is necessary, it usually means that other forms of treatment won’t be effective at this stage. If the condition is detected earlier, less invasive treatments might still be an option. Arthroscopy, for example, is a type of knee surgery that is performed with tiny instruments attached to a scope, and requires only a very small incision.
Q: How long does recovery take?
A: The exact period will differ from individual to individual, depending on their overall health, the severity of the condition, and the way they manage their recovery. Typically, one can realistically expect to stop using walking aids by six weeks, and take up driving from six to eight weeks again. However, full recovery of the muscles can take up to two years.
Q: What do I need to do during the recovery?
A: Again, the specific recovery regime may differ slightly from patient to patient. It is important to listen to the instructions of the doctor and physiotherapist and follow them very closely, as this will ensure the speediest and strongest possible recovery. You will be given certain exercises to complete and clear instructions as to which activities you are allowed to do, and which you should avoid. This will help return the muscle function and strength.
Q: How long will my new knee last?
A: Wear and tear will have an effect on the joint over time. However, research currently indicates that four out of five knee replacements still function the way they should after 25 years.
Q: Who is the best surgeon to approach for knee replacement surgery?
A: The Pretoria Hip, Knee and Shoulders Surgeons is a major referral centre for patients from this country and abroad. Dr Jan de Vos specialises in all hip, knee and shoulder pathology in patients older than 10 years. Surgical procedures include arthroscopic surgery, as well as arthroplasty surgery. Feel free to contact his office for more information.