When it is difficult for people to walk or climb stairs or are in constant pain, it is often associated with arthritis of the knee or even a major injury. Even after physiotherapy and medication there seems to be no improvement, so what next? Living with this pain all the time?
Fortunately since 1968 this has changed, knee replacement surgery is a major life saver for many people. It is the most successful procedure and relatively fast even in developing countries, it can be very cost effective when considering the long term benefits.
The knee is the largest joint of the body and it is very important for the knee to be healthy for us to do all our activities.
What leads to a total knee replacement?
Osteroarthrithis: wear and tear of the knee joint, normally occurs in people over 50 years, especially if there has been previous injury. The joint space between the thigh bone and the leg bone decreases, leading to rubbing and constant friction causing pain, swelling and stiffness.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: In this the synovial fluid which surrounds the joint tends to get thick and inflamed. This leads to damage of the cartilage and may lead to loss, pain, stiffness. Unlike osteoarthritis it is not associated with wear and tear or age.
What is done actually?
To be put simply: preparing the bone; positioning the metal implants; resurface the knee cap and inserting a spacer which keeps distance between the 2 bones.
Is it for you?
Your doctor is your best information source, do listen to him/her if you do feel that it needs a second option then go to another specialist and see if they have the same opinion.
The examination they do will include an x-ray, physical exams, detailed history and maybe a blood test and MRI.
Although many expect a drastic reduction in pain and increase movement of the knee, you need to know there will be hours of physiotherapy and exercise involved where you will be learning how to walk again and increase your range. With every surgery there are risks. Although this is a successful operation, there maybe risk of infection, blood clots and even nerve injuries.
After the surgery
You will have a few days stay at the hospital, where the doctors will note your progress and make sure you do not get any infection.
You will also start physiotherapy rehab where you will be given:
- Strengthening exercises for your leg
- Movement of the knee
- Use of crutches to walk
- Continuous passive movement machine to increase range of motion (in certain hospitals)
- Cryotherapy or ice to decrease swelling in the leg
- You will also need to go back to your physio regularly either in outpatients department in a hospital or a private physiotherapy center.
Driving will be something that you will not be allowed to do for at least 6 months after surgery. You can expect that full recovery can take up to or more than 6 months, and in this time you will gradually return to you normal activities.
Make sure you follow the instructions of your doctor and physiotherapist very closely for a speedy recovery.