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August 27, 2019

Here's what to expect before knee replacement surgery

The procedure removes damaged bone and inserts an artificial joint in its place

Senior Health Knee Replacements
Knee Replacement Surgery PA Images/Sipa USA

Doctors perform more than 600,000 knee replacement surgeries in the United States each year.

Knee replacement surgery is a common elective surgery today with more than 600,000 performed in the U.S. every year, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

If knee pain and instability starts to affect the quality of your life, your doctor may recommend it for you. But do you know all that it entails?


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The surgery, also known as knee arthroplasty, “involves cutting away damaged bone and cartilage from your thighbone, shinbone and kneecap and replacing it with an artificial joint (prosthesis) made of metal alloys, high-grade plastics and polymers,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

Here’s what to expect with knee replacement (Sources: Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and Harvard Health):

PRE-SURGERY

Before surgery, your doctor will inform you of any medications that you might need to temporarily stop taking and whether there will any be food restrictions on the day of the procedure. You also may be required to do physical therapy as part of your preparation.

THE KNEE REPLACEMENT

The surgery itself takes about two hours. Then you will be moved into recovery for another one or two hours when you will be monitored for any complications coming out of the anesthesia.

After you are moved to a regular hospital room, expect to do breathing exercises and physical therapy to slowly increase your activity level.

POST RECOVERY

Depending on whether you have the surgery as an outpatient or an inpatient, you could go home from the hospital the same day or one-to-two days afterward. You initially may need crutches or a walker to get around and outpatient rehabilitation until you regain full mobility.

Be sure to have a family member or friend drive you home from the hospital and stay with you until you are ready to do everyday tasks again. Typically, it takes about three-to-six weeks to return to your normal daily activities.

As with any surgery, there are risks to consider. They include:

• Infection in the artificial joint

• Nerve or blood vessel damage

• Heart attack

• Stroke

• Blood clots that could lead to amputation

Call your doctor immediately if you see signs of infection such as fever, swelling, redness, chills or drainage at the surgical site.

About 90 percent of all total knee replacement surgeries are successful and will last about 10-to-15 years before revision surgery may be needed, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Always have a full discussion with your doctor about possible treatment options, weighing all the risks and benefits.

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