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What is Knee Arthroplasty?

By K T Solis
Updated May 17, 2024
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Knee arthroplasty, also known as knee replacement, is a surgical procedure performed on patients whose knees are severely damaged. Undergoing a knee arthroplasty allows a patient to have a better quality of life, as a knee replacement can alleviate knee pain and allow the patient to experience greater mobility. The procedure is most often performed on adults who are 55 years and over, since younger people are often more physically active and can quickly wear out the knee replacement.

A surgeon can perform two types of knee arthroplasty according to the needs of the patient. The first type is called a full knee replacement. In this procedure, the surgeon removes damaged knee cartilage and bone from the knee joint's surface and replaces them with a synthetic surface of metal and plastic. A partial knee replacement involves only replacing one part of the knee joint.

People suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and other medical conditions involving the joints may sometimes need to undergo knee arthroplasty. Those who experience knee pain while walking, climbing stairs, rising from a chair, or even while resting may often benefit from knee arthroplasty. Patients whose knees are perpetually stiff or who have knees that swell may also be candidates for a knee replacement. Despite the various causes of severe knee pain, in order to be considered for the surgical procedures, patients should generally be in good health. Knee arthroplasty is usually not recommended for patients who have diabetes, infections, or restricted blood flow.

Most patients require about three to six weeks of recovery time before resuming normal activities. After patients are fully recovered, they can enjoy bicycle riding, walking, swimming, and other low-impact activities. On the other hand, high-impact exercise such as jogging, tennis, skiing, and other exercises that jar the body may not be advisable for knee replacement patients. It's important to discuss with the doctor which activities are best for each patients' specific needs.

All surgeries come with the possibility of serious complications. For example, a knee replacement procedure can cause a heart attack, blood clots, infection, nerve damage, stroke, or knee stiffness. Infection can be a serious problem years after knee replacement surgery is performed.

If patients experience chills, fever, or pain and redness around the knee, they must notify the doctor immediately. They should also notify the doctor if they notice drainage around the surgical site. These are all signs of infection and should be treated with antibiotics as soon as possible. In severe cases, the infected joint will need to be removed so that a newer one can be implanted within the patient.

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