You may need total knee replacement surgery if you are experiencing pain, stiffness or loss of motion in your knee joint. These symptoms may be caused by degenerative arthritis (osteoarthritis), rheumatoid arthritis or injured knee cartilage. When pain interferes with daily activities such as walking, climbing stairs or getting out of a chair, it’s usually time to consider having surgery.
Total knee replacement involves removing diseased cartilage on your knee surfaces and replacing it with smooth artificial surfaces. This is done by removing your thigh (femur) bone surface and lower leg (tibia) bone surface and replacing it with a metal and plastic implant. A plastic “button” piece is also implanted under your kneecap surface. These three components make up your new knee replacement surfaces.
You should be examined by your family doctor to ensure you are healthy enough for the planned surgery. You will be encouraged to stop smoking before surgery to prevent lung complications and promote healing after surgery. Pre-admission testing (lab work and EKG) and attendance at a “joint camp” will also be scheduled to further help you prepare for surgery. Anti-inflammatory medications, aspirin, and blood thinning medications should be discontinued one week before your surgery. These medications affect your blood clotting factors and could increase your risk of blood loss during surgery.
You will awake in the recovery room after surgery with an IV for antibiotics and fluid replacement that will be continued for 24 hours. You may receive medication through an IV-regulated pump to control your pain.
Physical therapy will begin the day after your surgery and you will be instructed on how to walk with the use of crutches or a walker. You may also be allowed to bear weight on the affected knee.
You may be given a prescription for a blood thinner such as Coumadin, Xarelto, Lovenox, or Aspirin to take after surgery, in order to prevent blood clots during the healing process.
The average recovery period for knee replacement surgery is 2-3 months. Most patients are back to work in 2 months if their job is sedentary, and 3 months if they have a labor-intensive job. Exercise such as running, skiing, or contact sports are discouraged following knee replacement surgery. Activities like swimming, walking and biking are encouraged to promote knee strength and overall fitness.
For additional information about this procedure, including what to do to prepare for your surgery and at-home instructions, we have included this complete patient eduction sheet as a pdf to view, download and print: