If your knee is severely damaged by arthritis or injury, it may be hard for you to perform simple activities such as walking or climbing stairs. You may even begin to feel pain while you are sitting or lying down.
A total knee replacement is a surgical procedure whereby the diseased knee joint is replaced with artificial material. The knee is a hinge joint which provides motion at the point where the thigh meets the lower leg. The thigh bone (or femur) abuts the large bone of the lower leg (tibia) at the knee joint. During a total knee replacement, the end of the femur bone is removed and replaced with a metal shell. The end of the lower leg bone (tibia) is also removed and replaced with a channeled plastic piece with a metal stem.
Why is there a need for Total Knee Replacement?
Total knee replacement surgery is considered for patients whose knee joints have been damaged by either progressive arthritis, trauma, or other rare destructive diseases of the joint. The most common reason for knee replacement in the United States is severe osteoarthritis of the knees.
Regardless of the cause of the damage to the joint, the resulting progressively increasing pain and stiffness and decreasing daily function lead the patient to consider total knee replacement.
Whether to have total knee replacement surgery should be a cooperative decision made by you, your family, your family physician, and your orthopaedic surgeon. Your physician may refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon for a thorough evaluation to determine if you could benefit from this surgery. Alternatives to traditional total knee replacement surgery that your orthopaedic surgeon may discuss with you include a unicompartmental knee replacement or a minimally invasive knee replacement.
Reasons that you may benefit from total knee replacement commonly include:
- Severe knee pain that limits your everyday activities, including walking, climbing stairs, and getting in and out of chairs. You may find it hard to walk more than a few blocks without significant pain and you may need to use a cane or walker.
- Moderate or severe knee pain while resting, either day or night
- Chronic knee inflammation and swelling that does not improve with rest or medications
- Knee deformity: a bowing in or out of your knee
- Knee stiffness: inability to bend and straighten your knee
- Failure to obtain pain relief from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These medications, including aspirin and ibuprofen, often are most effective in the early stages of arthritis. Their effectiveness in controlling knee pain varies greatly from person to person. These drugs may become less effective for patients with severe arthritis.
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