Knee replacement surgery

Knee replacement surgery is a technique that removes an arthritic knee joint and replaces it with an artificial joint, known as a prosthesis. Surgeons perform total or half replacements, depending on the extent of the damage to the knee.

Who needs a hip or knee replacement?

The most common reason for patients to need a knee replacement is severe osteoarthritis. Other conditions might include:
• Ligament damage
• Infection
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Haemophilia
• Crystal deposition diseases such as gout
• Avascular necrosis (death of bone following loss of blood supply)
• Bone dysplasias (disorders of the growth of bone)
• Fractures

What are the medical precautions?
• You will need a thorough assessment of your knee joint, including x-rays and other imaging techniques.
• Your doctor will need to make sure you are fit for the operation by thoroughly reviewing your medical history. You may need an electrocardiogram and blood tests.
• Inform you doctor of any drugs you are taking, particularly those that affect the blood’s ability to clot such as aspirin or Warfarin.

What can I expect from the operation?
The operation can take between 30 minutes and 2 hours. You will usually be given a spinal anaesthetic, in which case additional drugs are administered so that you will not be aware of the surgery.

Newer techniques in pain relief, and blood management pioneered in WA have reduced length of stay, quickened for blood transfusion.

The incision is up to 20 centimetres long. The tibia and femur are cut and the joint is removed and usually, a special type of bone cement anchors the prosthesis into place. The incision is closed with stitches or clips.

How will I feel after the surgery?
Ninety five per cent of patients who have knee replacement surgery experience less pain and greater mobility, but need to have regular check-ups and rehabilitation such as physiotherapy.

“Most prostheses last around 15 to 20 years, but if you are especially active, or heavy, wear and tear can mean another replacement is required earlier,” says Professor Yates.

“It’s really important to maintain a healthy weight and keep on with physiotherapy to keep the supporting muscles strong.”

How do I take care of myself at home?
Nurse Manager Kelly Rawlings at St John of God Murdoch Hospital says it may take around three months before you feel fully recovered, so take it easy.

“Avoid really strenuous exercise, but any exercise that encourages knee-bending, such as walking, cycling and swimming, is really good for your knee,” says Ms Rawlings.

“Follow your doctor’s advice and tell him or her if anything unusual happens, like a popping or clicking sound, or if it is red or swollen.”

With household tasks, planning and simplification are key. Try to take frequent rests, set realistic goals, place commonly used objects at an accessible level and consider simple, healthy meals that require minimal preparation.

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