Knee replacement surgery

Knee replacement surgery is a routine operation for knee pain, mostly caused by arthritis.

It involves replacing a damaged, worn or diseased knee with an artificial joint known as a prosthesis.

Over 70,000 knee replacements operations are carried out in England and Wales each year, and the number is rising.

Benefits of knee replacement surgery

The benefits of a successful knee replacement include being able to walk more easily and experiencing less pain.

What are the alternatives to surgery?

  • Unicompartmental and patellofemoral knee replacements are partial knee replacements which are available for patients with osteoarthritis that is limited to just one part of the knee.
  • Painkillers including paracetamol and ibuprofen (an anti-inflammatory) can help control the pain of arthritis.
  • Introducing supplements into your diet may help reduce your symptoms. However, it is important to check with your GP before you take them.
  • A walking stick can help make walking easier. An elastic support worn on your knee can also make it feel stronger.
  • Knee stiffness can be reduced through regular, moderate exercise.
  • Pain and stiffness can sometimes be controlled by a steroid injection into your knee joint.

It is common for these methods to become less effective over time as your arthritis and the symptoms worsen.

What does the operation involve?

Various anaesthetic techniques are available for the operation, which generally takes an hour to an hour and a half.

An incision will be made on the front of your knee and your surgeon will remove the damaged joint surfaces. An artificial knee joint made of either metal or plastic or a combination of both, will be inserted as a replacement as shown below.  The knee replacement bonds directly to the bone via its acrylic cement or special coatings.

How quick is recovery?

In most cases, you should be able to go home after three to seven days.  Crutches or walking sticks will be necessary for a few weeks after the operation.

Undertaking regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities quickly but please consult your GP or healthcare professional for advice before you start exercising.

It is advisable not to kneel on your replacement knee as they are never quite the same as a normal knee. It is usually uncomfortable to do so.

It is common for a knee replacement to wear out over time.

Summary of a total knee replacement

Arthritis usually occurs without a known cause, but in some cases, it is due to a previous knee injury or rheumatoid arthritis. People who suffer stiffness, severe pain and disability should find that a knee replacement reduces pain and improves their ability to walk.

Acknowledgements: EIDO Healthcare Limited

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