If your knee has been severely damaged by arthritis or an injury, it may be hard to perform simple activities, such as walking or climbing stairs. Individuals with knee arthritis may even feel pain while sitting or lying down. If nonsurgical treatments, such as medications and using walking supports, do not help, it may be time to consider total knee replacement surgery.
Joint replacement surgery is a safe and effective procedure to relieve pain, correct leg deformity, and help a person resume normal activities. A knee replacement (also called knee arthroplasty) might be more accurately termed a knee “resurfacing” because only the surface of the bones are actually replaced.
The four basic steps to a knee replacement procedure are:
- Preparing the bone – The damaged cartilage surfaces at the ends of the femur and tibia are removed along with a small amount of underlying bone.
- Positioning the metal implants – The removed cartilage and bone is replaced with metal components that recreate the surface of the joint. These metal parts may be cemented or “press–fit” into the bone.
- Resurfacing the patella – The undersurface of the patella (kneecap) is cut and resurfaced with a plastic button. Some surgeons do not resurface the patella, depending upon the case.
- Inserting a spacer – A medical-grade plastic spacer is inserted between the metal components to create a smooth gliding surface.
Since knee replacement surgery was first performed in 1968, surgical materials and techniques have greatly improved, increasing their effectiveness. Today, total knee replacements are one of the most successful procedures in all of medicine. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, more than 600,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the United States.