Knee Replacement Surgery
This webpage will give you information about total knee
replacement. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or
other relevant health professional.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is a group of conditions where there is progressive
damage to one or more joints.
The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, where there
is progressive wear and tear of a joint. Some other types of
arthritis are associated with inflammation of the joints.
Arthritis eventually wears away the normal cartilage covering
the surface of the joint and the bone underneath becomes damaged.
This causes pain and stiffness in the joint.
What are the benefits of surgery?
If your knee replacement is successful, you should have less
pain and be able to walk more easily.
Are there any alternatives to a total knee replacement?
Simple painkillers such as paracetamol and anti-inflammatory
painkillers such as ibuprofen can help control the pain.
Supplements to your diet may also help relieve your symptoms. You
should check with your doctor before you take supplements.
Using a walking stick can make walking easier. Wearing an
elasticated support on your knee can help it feel stronger.
Regular moderate exercise can help to reduce stiffness in your
A steroid injection into your knee joint can sometimes reduce
pain and stiffness.
All of these measures become less effective as your arthritis
What does the operation involve?
A variety of anaesthetic techniques are possible. The operation
usually takes between an hour and an hour and a half.
Your surgeon will make a cut on the front of your knee and
remove the damaged joint surfaces. They will replace these with an
artificial knee joint made of metal, plastic, ceramic, or a
combination of these materials (see figure 1).
Figure 1 - Typical knee replacement joint
An acrylic cement or special coatings on the knee replacement
bond it directly to the bone.
What complications can happen?
1 General complications
- Infection in the surgical site (wound)
- Unsightly scarring
- Blood clots
- Difficulty passing urine
- Chest infection
- Heart attack
2 Specific complications
- Split in the bone when the knee replacement is inserted
- Damage to nerves
- Damage to blood vessels
- Damage to ligaments and tendons
- Infection in the knee
- Continued discomfort in the knee
- Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the knee (Complex
Regional Pain Syndrome)
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home after four to seven days.
You will need to use crutches or walking sticks for a few
Most people make a good recovery, have less pain and can move
about better. An artificial knee never feels quite the same as a
normal knee. Kneeling down is not recommended and is usually
A knee replacement can wear out with time.
In a few cases, arthritis of the knee is a result of a previous
knee injury or rheumatoid arthritis. Usually it happens without a
known cause. If you suffer severe pain, stiffness and disability, a
knee replacement should reduce your pain and help you to walk more
Author: Mr Stephen Milner DM FRCS (Tr. & Orth.)
Illustrations: Mr Stephen Milner DM FRCS (Tr. & Orth.)
This webpage is intended for information purposes only and
should not replace advice that your relevant health professional
would give you.
Copyright © 2013 EIDO Healthcare Limited
The operation and treatment information on this website is produced
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The information should not replace advice that your relevant
health professional would give you.