What Should I Expect from Knee Replacement Surgery?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 January 2020
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A person who has suffered a serious knee injury or has an advanced medical condition such as osteoarthritis may need to undergo knee replacement surgery. Skilled surgeons perform either full or partial knee replacements, substituting metal and plastic parts for damaged joint tissue, bone, and ligaments. Surgeries are generally performed in inpatient hospitals, and an individual can expect to spend up to one week in a facility after a procedure to begin recovery. Most people who undergo knee replacement surgery attend physical therapy sessions to help them regain balance and strength, and the majority of patients experience almost normal mobility after about eight weeks.

Physicians and surgeons generally conduct extensive tests and physical examinations before deciding to perform knee replacement surgery. Medical professionals will gather information about a person's overall health, and ask questions about the patient's lifestyle, medical history, favorite activities, and goals after recovery. It is important for a patient to undergo a full medical examination and interview so that surgeons can tailor prostheses and procedures to his or her situation. An individual who loves playing sports and being active, for example, may receive a lighter, more flexible prosthetic knee than a person who is overweight or more sedentary.


There are several different types of knee replacement surgery procedures available. A total knee replacement is a very common and successful procedure performed on patients with severe damage in their cartilage, knee joint, and ligaments. Partial replacement may be effective when only one part of the knee is damaged, as is common in people with arthritis. Some surgeons prefer to conduct minimally invasive surgeries for less severe problems, utilizing computer-assisted equipment and making small incisions without opening up the entire knee compartment. A team of doctors and surgeons will discuss options with a patient and determine the most appropriate procedure.

On the day of the procedure, a person can expect to receive either local or inhaled anesthesia to reduce pain. The surgeon will bend the knee in a way that makes the joint accessible, cut into the skin, move the kneecap to the side, and carefully remove damaged tissue. He or she then inserts the prosthesis, makes sure it is in place properly by twisting and bending the knee, and closes the incision. After a procedure, a patient typically spends about two hours in a recovery room so that nurses can monitor vital signs and comfort.

Following a successful surgery, an individual is usually placed in a hospital bed for two to seven days so that doctors and nurses can ensure proper recovery. Some patients are given pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve symptoms. Doctors typically arrange for regular physical rehabilitation therapy sessions, where patients can work with skilled therapists to build strength and improve mobility. By following doctors' and therapists' recommendations, a nearly full recovery can be expected in six to eight weeks.



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