Total Knee Replacement

Total knee replacement (TKR) is a surgical procedure in which the worn out or damaged surfaces of the knee joint are removed and replaced with new artificial components.

The knee is made up of the femur (thigh bone), the tibia (shin bone), and patella (kneecap). Two menisci located between the femur and tibia are soft cartilage structures that serve as cushions to help absorb shock during motion. Arthritis (inflammation of the joints), injury, or other diseases of the joint can damage this protective layer of cartilage, causing extreme pain and difficulty in performing daily activities. Your doctor may recommend TKR if non-surgical treatment options have failed to relieve the symptoms.

Surgical Procedure

The goal of total knee replacement surgery is to relieve pain and restore the alignment and function of your knee.

Surgery is performed under spinal or general anesthesia.

  • The surgeon makes an incision along the affected knee exposing the knee joint.
  • The surgeon first concentrates on the femur (thighbone). The damaged portions of the femur are then cut at the appropriate angles using specialized jigs.
  • The femoral component is attached to the end of the femur with or without bone cement.
  • The damaged area of the tibia (shinbone) and the cartilage are cut or shaved. This removes the deformed part of the bone and any bony growths, and allows for a smooth surface for which to attach the implants.
  • The tibial component is secured to the end of the bone with bone cement or screws.
  • Your surgeon will place a plastic piece called a spacer between the implants to enable smooth gliding movements. This plastic insert will support the body’s weight and allow the femur to move over the tibia similar to the original cartilage (meniscus).
  • The femur and the tibia with the new components are put together to form the new knee joint.
  • To make sure the patella (knee cap) glides smoothly over the new artificial knee, its rear surface is prepared to receive a plastic component.
  • With all the new components in place, the knee joint is tested through its range of motion.
  • All excess cement will be removed. The entire joint will be irrigated and cleaned with a sterile saline solution. The knee is then carefully closed and drains are usually inserted after which the knee is dressed and bandaged.

Post-Operative Recovery

Common Post-Operative guidelines include:

  • You will be taken to the recovery room and monitored for any complications.
  • You will be given pain medication to keep you comfortable at home.
  • You will need someone to drive you home due to the drowsy effects of the anesthesia.
  • Swelling is normal after knee surgery. Rest, ice, compression and elevation of the knee are recommended to minimize swelling and pain.
  • You will be given specific instructions regarding activity. You may have to restrict certain activities.
  • You will be referred to a rehabilitation program for exercise and strengthening.
  • Eating a healthy diet and not smoking will promote healing.

Risks and complications

As with any major surgery, possible risks and complications associated with total knee replacement surgery include:

  • Knee stiffness
  • Infection
  • Blood clots (deep vein thrombosis)
  • Nerve and blood vessel damage
  • Ligament injuries
  • Patella (kneecap) dislocation
  • Plastic liner wears out
  • Loosening of the implant

Other Knee Treatment Options List