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Total Knee Replacement General Information
Your knees are involved in just about everything you do, from standing to walking, stooping, stretching, and running. The human knee is a wonderfully constructed, versatile joint, formed by a hinge-type mechanism that lets you move both forward and backward (and even a bit from side to side). It’s also a workhorse that’s built to be tough. Both the articular cartilage that covers the bones and the thick fibrous capsule that surrounds the knee contribute to its strength and stability and also serve as shock absorbers against all the activities knees encounter every day. Within the cavity of the knee joint is a substance called synovial fluid which promotes smooth movement and helps prevent friction between the two main bones that connect at your knee.
Smooth, pain-free movement in the knee depends on all of these components working together. Over time and with age, the cartilage can break down. When bony surfaces begin to rub together without the buffers that were once there, walking, bending, and standing can be very painful. This is what often accounts for the pain and discomfort associated with arthritis. Joint diseases can result in stiffness, swelling, and tenderness in the hip, knee, shoulder, wrists, and ankles. Even the simplest daily activities can become painful—slowly diminishing your mobility and, ultimately, your quality of life.
To determine whether you need surgery, consult Dr. Longo. He will evaluate your medical history, take X-rays, and assess your walking, leg motion, and joint condition. It’s possible he may then recommend a total knee replacement with what is called a knee joint prosthesis. The aim of this surgery is to correct the deteriorating condition of your present knee and to help you regain movement and eliminate most of the pain you have been experiencing.
If you do opt to have the surgery, it would help for you to do some homework ahead of time. Practice using a walking aid (you’ll use one temporarily after surgery) and become familiar with the specific exercises you will need to do after surgery.
After surgery, some leg movement may be initially limited, but this will improve over time as you become more comfortable with your new knee. Specially designed stockings and inflatable leg wraps may be used to maintain circulation in your legs. The walking aid (a cane, walker, or crutches) will allow gradual weight increase on your new knee and assist in healing and controlling the pain.
Learn about using a safe walking pattern and equip your home with self-help devices such as a raised toilet seat, a bath bench, and reaching tools. Your activity will be restricted at first. Observe these restrictions to give your knee and surrounding tissues proper time to heal.
A personal exercise program designed by Dr. Longo and his physical therapist will help to restore muscle balance and allow you to walk more comfortably. Continuing exercises at home and in an outpatient physical therapy program for several months following surgery will help you regain strength and independence. An active lifestyle which includes water exercises, walking, and biking is essential in maintaining movement of your joints and keeping you and your new knee healthy. Gauge your daily activities with your new knee in mind. Avoid strenuous movements such as twisting, jumping, and running which may damage your prosthesis.
After surgery, the knee pain you had will be gone, but you may have some discomfort when you stretch, and you may experience some pain at the site of the surgery. This will decrease and disappear over time.