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Total Knee Replacement: What to Expect, Surgery and Recovery

14 September 2021

You’ve likely decided to look at a total knee replacement because you suffer severe osteoarthritis, have joint or mobility issues, an injury or a joint deformity. The procedure may not be for everyone so it’s important to speak with an expert before discussing your options. The goal of the surgery is to relieve pain and increase mobility.

Total knee replacement: what to expect

The knee is made up of the femur (thigh bone), the tibia (shin bone) and the patella (knee cap). The ends of these bones are covered in cartilage that protects them and allows them to move easily within the joint. When that cartilage is damaged through arthritis, degradation or injury, it can become very painful. If other methods of controlling that pain are not successful, knee replacement surgery is usually the option.

A total knee replacement removes the diseased parts of the knee and replaces them with a prosthesis—an artificial portion of the knee made of metal and plastic. Before the surgery, your doctor will explain what is involved with the procedure, the risks and the recovery process.

Knee replacement surgery

Just before the procedure, you may be given antibiotics and blood-thinning medications which help to prevent infection and blood clots. Your leg is cleaned and prepared for surgery and you will be given an anesthetic which your doctor can discuss with you. The procedure of joint replacement begins with an incision on your knee and the removal of the diseased parts of the joint. Bone from the femur and tibia may also be removed to ensure the prosthetic is in the correct position. The metal and plastic sections will be attached to the femur and tibia before the knee is properly aligned and ligaments and muscles rearranged. The whole procedure may take up to four hours. A drain will be attached to the knee as a fluid tube and you will be stitched up and moved on to recovery.

Recovery from knee replacement surgery

Immediate recovery will be in hospital after the anesthetic and you may spend time in a ward. You should check your knee for swelling, seeping and infection on an ongoing basis and call your doctor should you notice or feel like there may be an issue. The pain, swelling and stiffness may take up to three months before you are fully recovered and you may need to attend therapy to help in your recovery. Medical staff will give you advice on walking, getting in and out of bed and chairs, using crutches or a walker. You will have follow up visits with your doctor and tell them if you experience anything unusual like the joint making clicking sounds. You may be on crutches for up to 12 weeks.

The good news is about 90 per cent of patients who have a total knee replacement experience less pain and greater mobility. If you would like to make an appointment to discuss knee replacement surgery, call Brisbane’s Lane Orthopedic Surgery on (07) 3394 4228.

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