2525.jpegKnee replacement surgery is an important medical procedure that can dramatically improve your quality of life. However, before deciding on surgery, it's essential to be well-informed. An increasing number of people turn to this surgical solution to address debilitating knee pain and mobility issues. In fact, across the United States, roughly 600,000 total knee replacements take place each year.

With the surgery’s growing popularity comes constant developments and changes in methods. The vast amount of available information can be quite overwhelming to those researching the operation. That's why our team at Sports Medicine and Joint Replacement Specialists in Pittsburgh, PA, brings you the five most crucial things you should know before going through with this important operation.

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#1: The Types Of Knee Replacements

Knee replacement surgery, also known as knee arthroplasty, is a transformative procedure aimed at relieving pain and restoring function in severely diseased knee joints. If you're considering knee replacement as a solution to knee pain, it's important to understand the different types available to make an informed decision.

Total Knee Replacement (TKR)

Total knee replacement, or total knee arthroplasty, is the most common type of knee replacement surgery. It involves replacing the entire knee joint's damaged cartilage and bone with knee replacement implants. The procedure aims to relieve severe pain caused by osteoarthritis or other knee conditions, improving knee motion and allowing patients to return to normal activities like walking and climbing stairs.

Partial Knee Replacement (PKR)

Partial knee replacement, or unicompartmental knee replacement, is an option when only one part of the knee is severely damaged and needs to be replaced. This surgery targets either the medial (inside), lateral (outside), or patellofemoral (front) compartment of the knee. PKR is beneficial for patients with limited knee arthritis, as it preserves more of the patient's natural knee structure, including the healthy cartilage and bone, as well as the knee's ligaments.

Choosing the Right Type for You

Orthopedic surgeons consider several factors when recommending the type of knee replacement surgery, including:

  • The extent of the damaged cartilage and bone
  • The patient's overall health
  • Prior medical conditions
  • The expected outcome of the surgery

It's also important to note that treatments such as physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and lifestyle adjustments are usually explored before opting for surgery.

#2: The Required Physical Preparations

Strengthen Your Body

  • Engage in Pre-Surgical Physical Therapy: Working with a physical therapist before your surgery can strengthen the muscles around your knee joint, ensuring you go into the operation with the best possible muscle tone.
  • Exercise Regularly: Focus on low-impact activities recommended by your orthopedic surgeon or physical therapist, such as swimming or cycling, to maintain overall health and prepare your body for the upcoming surgery.

Prepare Your Home

  • Safety First: Install safety bars in the bathroom, secure loose carpets, and ensure that you have a stable chair with a firm seat cushion and a toilet seat riser to help with mobility during the first few weeks post-surgery.
  • Accessibility: Arrange your living space so that necessities are within easy reach, minimizing the need to climb stairs or stretch excessively to grab items.

#3: The Required Mental Preparations

Set Realistic Expectations

Understand that while knee replacement surgery aims to relieve significant pain and improve knee motion, the recovery process can be lengthy. Being mentally prepared for the rehabilitation process and the effort required can make a big difference in your outlook and results.

Stress Management

Develop stress-relief techniques such as meditation, deep-breathing exercises, or speaking with a counselor to help manage any anxiety or concerns you have about the surgery, recovery, and your future mobility.

#4: Potential Risks and Complications

Knee replacement surgery, including total knee replacement and partial knee replacements, has become a routine procedure aimed at relieving pain and restoring the range of motion in damaged knee joints. While the success rate of knee replacement surgeries is high, as with any major surgical procedure, there are potential risks and complications that patients should be aware of.

Surgical Risks and Complications

  • Incision Site and Deep Joint Infections: Despite the sterile surgical techniques, there's a risk of infection at the incision site or within the knee joint itself. Symptoms may include redness, swelling, fever, and increased pain. Treatment can range from antibiotics to revision surgery in severe cases.
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): Blood clots can form in the leg veins, posing serious health risks if they travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism). Preventative measures may include blood thinners, physical therapy to encourage blood flow, and compression garments.

General Surgical Complications

  • Reactions to General Anesthesia: While anesthesia is safe for most patients, it carries risks such as allergic reactions and respiratory issues, especially in those with underlying medical conditions.
  • During or After Surgery: The bones around the knee joint, including the femur (thigh bone) or tibia (shin bone), can fracture during surgery or in the weeks following, potentially requiring additional surgical interventions.

Long-Term Considerations

  • Wear Over Time: Most knee replacements are designed to last many years, but they may eventually wear out. Younger, more active patients may face the possibility of revision surgery in the future.
  • Persistent Symptoms: A small percentage of patients may continue to experience significant pain after surgery, which could be due to a variety of factors, including the body's reaction to the artificial joint or incomplete healing.

#5: The Recovery Process

Immediately after knee replacement surgery, you'll be taken to the recovery room where your surgery team will monitor your vital signs and manage pain relief. This initial phase is crucial for ensuring your safety as you recover from general anesthesia.

Pain and discomfort are normal, but your medical team will provide medications to help manage significant pain. It's important to communicate openly about your pain levels to find the most effective relief.

Physical therapy often starts within a day or two after surgery. Early movement is key to preventing blood clots and promoting blood flow, which aids in healing.

The Weeks Following Surgery

Following your orthopedic surgeon's instructions for wound care is vital to prevent infection. You may also be advised to continue using blood thinners to prevent clots and to engage in daily activities that encourage knee movement without overexerting the joint.

The timeline for returning to normal activities varies. Most people can resume everyday activities within several weeks but may need to avoid high-impact activities for a few months. Your surgery team and physical therapist will guide you on what is safe to do.

Stepping Forward Into Your Knee Replacement Journey

Now that you've been given the information necessary to make an informed decision regarding knee replacement surgery, it's important that you take time to consider whether this operation may be right for you. Remember- the learning doesn't stop here. Continue to ask your healthcare provider any and all questions to ensure that you are as prepared as possible for this surgery.

As you contemplate this life-changing procedure, remember that you're not alone. The team at Sports Medicine and Joint Replacement Specialists in Pittsburgh, PA, is here to guide you every step of the way.

If you're interested in knee replacement surgery, contact SMJRS today to determine if this treatment is right for you. Your pain won't wait- so you shouldn't either! Schedule an appointment online with us today and get back to the things you love!

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