Knee replacements have been around for decades with great success. Some initial early prostheses had a limited lifespan, but newer state-of-the-art models are lasting longer and longer.
How do you know if it’s time for a knee-replacement surgery? The short answer is you cannot know without consulting an orthopedic specialist. If the pain in your knee is debilitating, it might be time to find out what your treatment options are.
You May Want to Discuss the Option of a Knee Replacement With an Orthopedic Surgeon If …
- Over-the-counter medicines no longer bring relief
- Knee pain is getting worse or keeps you awake at night
- Knee pain is accompanied by swelling
- You cannot perform your everyday activities
- You see noticeable changes in the appearance of your knee
Visual changes in the knee joint, limited movement, and increasing lifestyle limitations are all signs of knee deterioration. If your knee aches even when at rest, there is a noticeable decrease in its range of motion, and nonsurgical options simply do not hit the mark, it could be time to replace your knee joint.
Being the largest joint in the body, the knee can take on a lot of wear and tear injuries on a daily basis. It constantly is engaged to lift the weight of the body and can be often be hurt. Sometimes a rapid change in direction can tear ligaments or tendons, cause a meniscus tear, or damage the cartilage in your knee, which can lead to severe arthritis.
But chronic knee pain is not normal. If X-rays or an MRI indicate severe deformity or deterioration in the knee joint, then knee replacement could be the best treatment option for you.
Knee Replacement Surgery: What to Expect
In our hands, the actual knee replacement surgery only takes about an hour or less. Surgery is typically performed under spinal anesthesia. An anesthesiologist will give you medicine to make you go to sleep, and then will carefully place some numbing medicine in the low back to make your legs numb for surgery. You will not be awake during the procedure, but will still be breathing on your own, meaning a breathing tube for general anesthesia is not required. This spinal anesthesia is better and safer than general anesthesia, and helps with recovery after the procedure too. During surgery, damaged bone and cartilage is carefully removed and the prosthetic joint is put in place, similar to placing a crown on a tooth. Your own knee ligaments will stabilize the knee replacement just as they would stabilize a normal knee. The incision is sewn up, and patients typically take their first steps within the first few hours after surgery. It is critical that mobility with physical therapy begin as soon after surgery as possible to ensure proper healing, maintain joint flexibility, and minimize the risk of other issues related to immobility such as blood clots.
Typically, our patients spend just one night in the hospital, and are safe to return home on the day after the procedure. Many healthy and motivated patients are even able to have surgery as an outpatient, allowing them to return to the comfort of their own home on the day of the procedure. The hospital or ambulatory surgery center staff will have a few set goals to expedite a person’s release such as the patient must be able to:
- Get in and out of bed by themselves
- Walk safely down the hall with a walker for initial support
- Eat, drink and use the restroom by themselves
- Perform prescribed home-based exercises
- Identify signs and symptoms of any potential issues to watch for at home
Recovering from Knee-Replacement Surgery
Patients typically need some help at home the first week or two following knee surgery.
To aid post-surgical recovery, you can set up a “recovery center” at home where precautions have been taken like removing obstacles to minimize the risk of falling and creating places where the joint can be elevated in comfort.
The surgical wound must be properly cared for and kept dry and clean.
Post-surgery, patients should abide by the prescribed exercises to prevent injury and ensure proper healing. Their rehab regimen may include:
- Walking for short periods, first inside, then outside
- Climbing a flight of stairs
- Exercises for bending and straightening the knee
- Outpatient physical therapy sessions with a dedicated therapist.
In addition to stretching and strengthening exercises with physical therapy, they will also help with the progression from a walker, to a cane, and then no assist devices.
In general, current data suggests that more than 90 percent of all knee-replacement patients report an increased quality of life for up to 20 years after their knee surgeries.
If your knee is changing appearance, constantly hurts when walking or at rest, or if you find yourself sitting on the sidelines like a wallflower while others enjoy a night out, don’t delay getting help any longer. Contact Dr. Brett J. Gilbert and ask about your options to eradicate your knee pain. Call him today at (919) 788-8797 or request an appointment online at one of his 3 locations in the Triangle region of North Carolina.