Are there updates in knee replacement surgery?
Audrey Tsao, MD, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at Banner Estrella Medical Center.
Question: I was told that I should have knee replacement surgery. My husband had his knee replaced 10 years ago and I remember the recovery being very difficult for him. Have there been improvements that will allow me to get back to my normal activities I enjoy now more quickly?
Answer: Your orthopedic surgeon would not have recommended knee replacement surgery unless you have a definite need. You imply that you are active now but how active? Do you find yourself limiting your daily activities because of pain or hardship? Are you modifying your daily activities due to limited mobility? If so, knee replacement surgery is an option worth serious consideration. Better joint implants and improved surgical techniques are helping joint replacement patients return to their normal activities more quickly than ever before. In fact, most patients are fully back to their normal level of activity within weeks of their procedure.
There are two types of knee replacements – partial knee replacement and total knee replacement. Partial knee replacement is used primarily on patients who have some healthy joint surface. In partial knee replacement, your surgeon would remove only the part of the knee that is unhealthy, leaving healthy bone untouched. This surgery is less invasive; therefore you probably will have a slightly shorter recovery time.
Total knee replacement involves removing the portions of all three bones of your knee, before resurfacing your leg bones with implants built from plastic and metal. There have been many advances in knee replacement surgery in the past 10 years, which your orthopedic surgeon can explain to you. Smaller incisions, new techniques and new implants now make it easier for an orthopedic surgeon to customize a knee replacement surgery for each patient. For instance, new “gender knees” are built specifically with a woman’s physique in mind. Smaller and with a slightly different shape, the gender knees work with a woman’s contours to mold to her bone structure. If you are outgoing and enjoy exercise, the gender knee might be just what you need to continue to stay active for a long time after your surgery.
Total knee replacement does require some restrictions immediately following the surgery, as well as rehabilitation for your new joint. Your physician will provide you with all of the follow up information you need to make your surgery as successful, and as painless, as possible.