How you and a new knee can live happily ever after...
It bears almost all your weight, keeps you balanced and enables you to sit, stand, pivot and walk.
Not bad for metal and plastic.
An artificial knee replicates the body’s largest and most complex joint, allowing patients hindered by pain to improve their quality of life—and their overall health.
Considering joint replacement surgery? Read on to learn what to expect.
First Things First
If a new knee is in your near future, you’re probably not aiming to run a marathon anytime soon. You may simply want to climb stairs or enjoy a good night’s sleep without pain.
Osteoarthritis—the most common cause of knee pain and reason for joint replacement—tends to set in after age 50, when the cartilage that protects bones wears away and causes friction.
Doctors recommend knee replacement when pain interferes with daily activities and when other solutions, like medication and physical therapy, aren’t sufficient.
Avoiding knee replacement can trigger a vicious cycle: Inactivity causes weight gain, and excess weight may lead to other health issues. For more than 90 percent of patients, knee replacement surgery dramatically reduces pain.
While an artificial knee won’t give a 65-year-old the athleticism of a college kid, the goal is function, not perfection, says David Peterson, DO, an orthopedic surgeon and joint replacement specialist at Bingham Memorial’s Orthopedic Institute.
“The majority of the patients say, ‘Why did I put it off for so long,’” he says.
The Big Meeting
The idea of swapping bone for metal can be unnerving. And knee replacement is not without risks, like infection or blood clots. But performed for over 50 years, knee replacement is a routine procedure, with more than 750,000 surgeries logged annually in the United States.
Your surgeon will recommend either a partial knee replacement, in which only the damaged portion of the knee is removed, or a total replacement affecting the entire joint: the lower part of the thighbone, the upper shinbone and the back of the kneecap.
The surgery begins with anesthesia. Next, your surgeon will remove the damaged surfaces and shape the bones before using cement to attach the artificial knee. “Using minimally-invasive surgical techniques today involves much smaller incisions, causing less muscle injury and soft tissue damage,” says Dr. Peterson. “In addition, there are a broad range of replacement sizes and shapes that essentially fit anyone, which hasn’t always been the case.”
In the early days of knee replacement, one-size-fits-all implants replicated a simple hinge. Now, more than 150 types of implants, constructed from durable materials like titanium and high-tech plastic, are made to accommodate patient characteristics and mimic the roll-and-glide motion of the joint.’
The Rough Patch
In the initial weeks after surgery, your knee won’t yet feel new and improved.
Over one to four days in the hospital, you’ll be treated for pain and practice ambulating with a walker or crutches. Once you head home, you’ll need to keep up with physical therapist-prescribed exercises to strengthen the muscles around your knee and restore range of motion.
Most people can resume driving and return to other daily activities after four to six weeks. But don’t be discouraged if some pain and swelling persist for up to six months. Full recovery may take a year.
“You’re not going to spring back right away, despite how much your mind wants you to,” Dr. Peterson says. “Be patient with yourself, and be respectful of your body and your healing process.”
A Lasting Relationship
The life span of your new knee depends on how well you care for it.
Most important is staying active through walking, biking, swimming and other low-impact activities that won’t overstress the joint. So is staying slim: An extra pound of body weight equates to four pounds of pressure on the knee during certain activities.
With each passing year, your new knee has about a 1 percent risk of failure. But that means there’s an 80 percent chance you’ll have the same knee in two decades. Sounds like the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
New Knee, Pain-Free
Suffering from persistent knee pain? As a top orthopedic surgeon in eastern Idaho, David Peterson, DO, specializes in arthritis and minimally invasive joint replacement for the knee and hip. He is board certified in orthopedics and fellowship trained in total knee replacement.
Dr. Peterson sees patients at Bingham Memorial’s Orthopedic Institute in Idaho Falls, Blackfoot, and Pocatello. If you have questions about your knee health, or are ready to find relief from constant knee pain, call (208) 782-2999 to schedule an appointment.