A total knee replacement, also known as a knee arthroplasty, is a well-established procedure for restoring mobility, function, and comfort to an arthritic knee. Non-operative treatments and medications are highly recommended for younger patients before considering a total knee replacement. Older patients tend to have more reliable outcomes with total knee replacements; however, the procedure has also been successful in younger patients. Patients with knee arthritis who have failed to see improvements in their pain and/or function after non-operative treatments are great candidates for a total knee replacement.
Contrary to popular belief, during a total knee replacement, the entire knee is not cut out. Only the damaged and arthritic portions of the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone) are removed, using special cutting guides, leaving as much bone behind as possible. Then, metal implants are sized and selected to replicate the original bone surfaces in a healthy knee joint. The implants are secured to the ends of the femur and tibia with bone cement or using a press-fit technique which allows your bone to grow into the implant. Once the metal components are secured, a high-density plastic (polyethylene) spacer is inserted between the two bones, acting like cartilage. Lastly, the patella (kneecap) is resurfaced with a plastic button to remove and address arthritic bone on the kneecap.
Patients are able to stand and walk immediately after surgery, and therapy usually begins the day of surgery. After surgery, a therapy program is initiated to achieve the desired range of motion and strength with the new implant. Within 3-4 months after surgery, patients will be able to return to most daily living activities.