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What is an Orthopedic Knee Replacement?

By Deneatra Harmon
Updated May 17, 2024
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An orthopedic knee replacement, also known as a total knee replacement, is usually a last-resort treatment option for a knee injury or damage when other methods no longer work. Severe and nearly disabling knee pain generally warrants that the patient undergoes orthopedic surgery. Following evaluation and preparation, the procedure takes at least two hours and requires a brief hospital stay. Strict doctor's guidelines apply when recovering at home.

The knee replacement procedure may be necessary if the knee stops functioning normally. The thighbone, shin bone, and kneecap work together so a person can move freely and easily without pain. The knee can eventually weaken because of an old sports injury or a disease like arthritis.

In addition to muscle weakness, pain, inflammation and limited mobility may also create the need for orthopedic knee replacement. The pain usually ranges from moderate to severe, and at times can limit everyday activities such as walking, standing, and climbing stairs. Bending the knee may prove impossible, and the pain may persist even at rest. Initially, the person may use anti-inflammatory medications or cortisone injections to treat the knee pain, but these methods can become ineffective over time. Orthopedic knee replacement is common among those between the ages of 60 and 80, but the procedure can be performed on patients of all ages depending on the condition.

To confirm whether an orthopedic knee replacement might be the correct solution, a surgeon analyzes the patient's medical history. The doctor evaluates the severity of the pain through a physical exam that assesses stability, movement and alignment. X-rays, blood tests, and an MRI provide further evidence of any knee damage and any deformities.

The orthopedic knee replacement procedure takes approximately two hours in a hospital while the patient is under anesthesia. The orthopedic surgeon uses special tools to remove damaged cartilage and bone within the knee. Materials inserted for the total knee replacement consist of a metal femur component, a plastic tibial component, and a plastic patellar component. Following surgery, the patient is transferred to a recovery room for an additional two hours, then placed in a hospital room for a few days. During the stay, the patient must practice knee movements, and the surgeon and staff also monitor the patient's overall health to prevent infection and blood clotting.

When the patient returns home, the orthopedic surgeon's guidelines prevail regarding diet, wound care, and physical activities. First, the doctor usually encourages a balanced diet that includes iron to rebuild muscle strength and heal knee tissue. The knee wound also needs to completely dry and seal before the patient can soak in a bath. The wound may also be covered with a bandage to safeguard against irritation from clothing. To fully recover from orthopedic knee replacement surgery within three to six weeks, the doctor may encourage light exercise such as walking, doing household chores, and participating in physical therapy.

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