Knee Replacement Surgery : Causes and Treatment

In knee replacement surgery, existing knee joint is replaced by artificial knee joint. When knee pain becomes unbearable for over a long period of time and it starts interfering with day-to-day activities, doctors suggest to go for knee replacement surgery. It is the only option available when other treatments such as physical therapy, medications , help of walking aid fail to ease out pain. Knee replacement surgery is also called as total knee arthroplasty (TKA).

Chronic osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two common reasons why people prefer to opt for knee replacement surgery. Osteoarthritis is breakdown of knee cartilage and bone. It results in joint stiffness and swelling. Rheumatoid arthritis is autoimmune (abnormal immune response to normal tissues present in body) disorder of joints.  It can affect normal function of knee and may cause damage to tissues and muscles.

What are the causes of knee pain?

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Knee pain can be attributed to several factors such as:

  • Injury to knee
  • Damage to knee ligament
  • Tear of knee cartilage
  • Knee arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Reasons why you may need to opt for knee replacement surgery:

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  • Consistent knee pain for over a long period of time
  • Experiencing pain in the knees while performing lower body exercises
  • Swollen and stiff knees
  • Difficulty in performing leg movements swiftly
  • Not able to bend your knee
  • Problem while walking and climbing stairs
  • Walking aid does not help to soothe out pain
  • Sleep deprivation because of knee pain

Diagnosis for knee replacement surgery:

Before performing knee replacement surgery, a complete diagnosis of knee anatomy will be done. Doctor will ask you if there is any history of knee injury or knee surgery. You may even need to elaborate your knee pain to doctor.  Orthopedic surgeon will conduct physical examination of the knee and will ask you take knee X-rays. Doctor will check strength of knees by asking you to do several exercises like walking, bending etc. You will be required to stay in the hospital for few days post surgery. You may as well take help of physical therapy for quick recovery.

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Knee replacement surgery treatment:

  • During knee replacement surgery, entire knee joint or affected part of the joint is removed and substituted by prosthetic joint.
  • To perform knee replacement surgery, you will be administered general anesthesia.
  • General anesthesia makes your whole body numb (induces sleepy state) as opposed to local anesthesia that makes only the part to be operated numb.
  • 8-12 inch incision is made on the front part of the knee.
  • Damaged part is substituted with prosthetic device and the surface of the knee is reshaped to hold the device.
  • Synthetic joint is connected to thigh bone, knee cap and shin either with special material or cement. When fit together, it works in support of surrounding ligaments and muscles to enable leg movements.
  • Modernization and innovation in surgeries, have now made knee replacement surgery minimally invasive. A small incision of around 3-4 inches is made instead of large one (7-8 inches). Minimally invasive surgeries cause less damage to surrounding tissues, are less painful, there is less loss of blood and recovery time or the healing time period required for such surgery is comparatively shorter than standard surgery. Scar left post surgery is also small and not noticeable from long distance.

Risks and complications involved in knee replacement surgery:

Just like every coin has two sides, knee replacement surgery has its advantages as well as disadvantages.

  • One of the major risk involved in knee replacement surgery is infection of the joint. It can happen anytime- during hospital stay or when you go home or years after the surgery. Infection may occur around the prosthesis or in the wound. If it is a minor infection, it can be cured using antibiotics and major infections might require surgery to eradicate it. Infections that happen in other parts of body can spread to joints through blood. Hence, you need to take appropriate precaution against infection.
  • Deep vein thrombosis is another major complication of knee replacement surgery. It can be treated by using blood thinners, periodic examination of patients legs etc. Lower leg exercises increase blood circulation to the joints.
  • Though there is advancement in surgical techniques and implant material, surfaces of implant may wear off and components can become loose.
  • Injury can happen to surrounding nerves, blood vessels and tissues causing neurovascular injury

Post surgery precautions:

Patient who has undergone knee replacement surgery will be required to stay in the hospital for few days. Patient has to follow certain precautions post surgery in order to recover damaged tissues and accelerate healing process. Most of the patients notice drastic improvement in their joint movements post surgery. Initially, you will have to take support of walking devices such as crane, crutches, walkers etc. while walking to support your body weight. Later on you can continue walking with minimal or no assistance.   Doctors usually ask patients to take bed rest for at least a day and then gradually continue with your daily activities. Some precautions to be followed after knee replacement surgery are:

  • Do not twist or pivot the joint for at least 6 weeks after the surgery
  • Keep the leg operated as straight as possible when sleeping. Do not bend the leg.
  • Avoid squatting, kneeling and other exercises that involve folding of knees
  • Do not perform any heavy lower body exercises for at least few months
  • Avoid climbing stairs. If you have to climb stairs, do it so for only once or twice a day.
  • You can start walking on a flat surface for few minutes a day to give your joints some exercise

What is the cost of knee replacement surgery ?

Earlier knee replacement surgeries were quite expensive as compared to present scenario. Cost has reduced due to improvement in techniques,  design and increase in number of people opting for knee replacement surgery. Cost of surgery depends on severity and size of the damaged joint. Average cost of knee replacement surgery in India can reach up to few lacs of rupees, to know more about cost of surgery click here.

It is said that precaution is better than cure. Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle to keep your bones strong. Ensure there is enough intake of calcium in your diet. Rich sources of calcium are milk, yogurt, green leafy vegetables etc.

Author’s Bio – Renuka Agarwal is certified in home health aide from Healthcare sector. She possesses proficient knowledge about various health related issues, diseases and treatments.

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