||T O T A L K N E E R E P L A C E M E N T Q U E S T I O N S
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Frequently Asked Questions
Q) Once I decide to have the surgery, how soon can it actually take place?
A) Allow at least three weeks to prepare for the surgery. You may need additional examinations and testing, and you may need to arrange to donate your own blood for the surgery.
Q) What is a total knee replacement made of?
A) Total knees are made of metal and polyethylene. The piece covering the lower end of the femur (thighbone) and upper end of the tibia (leg bone) is made of a corrosion-resistant alloy of stainless steel, usually cobalt chromium or titanium. The joint spacer articulation is made of polyethylene and designed to mate with the piece attached to the femur. The undersurface of the patella (kneecap) is replaced with polyethylene, which moves against the metal of the femoral component. This combination of metal on polyethylene creates a joint of minimal friction and wear, helping to maximize the life of your new knee.
Q) How painful is total knee replacement?
A) As with all forms of surgery, knee replacement is painful, but the pain is manageable. For the first one to three days after surgery, pain is very well controlled with an epidural catheter or injections. After that, oral medications, such as Percocet or Vicodin, are usually adequate. Sometimes patients require further (but less frequent) pain medication once they leave the hospital. Typically within two to three weeks after surgery, most patients find that their pain is greatly diminished and nothing stronger than anti-inflammatory medications are needed. Controlling any swelling around the knee by using ice, elevation, and a light wrap greatly reduces discomfort in the first several weeks.
Q) What are the possible complications?
A) Although chronic illnesses increase the risk for any surgical patient, knee replacement surgery has a very low rate of complications. On a national average, fewer than 2 percent of patients experience knee joint infection or other major difficulties. Complications within our practice have been even lower. Blood clots in the leg veins are the most common complication, but these can be prevented with medications and by using special support hose, inflatable leg coverings, and gentle exercises which begin soon after surgery.
Q) What if I can't go home immediately after surgery?
A) Unfortunately, many patients don’t have a healthy spouse or close family member at home to help them during the initial days and weeks after surgery. For those unable to depend on family or close friends, staying in a skilled nursing facility or rehab center for one to three weeks is an excellent alternative. By transitioning back into your home routine through a nursing facility, you’ll regain your independence more safely and comfortably. This, in turn, reduces your home-care needs to a level that friends or family can help you manage more easily.
Q) Are there important tips for post-joint replacement surgery?
A) It’s critically important to avoid situations in which you could fall or injure your joint. You will need special assistance for a few weeks, especially while you are regaining your balance, strength, and flexibility. Follow the instructions from your physical therapist regarding regular, light exercise. You will need to take antibiotics prior to dental surgery or any other surgery to prevent bacteria from entering your bloodstream.
Q) When can I return to sports?
A) Most patients who undergo total knee replacement are ready to return to extensive travel and light activities, such as golf, within six to eight weeks after surgery. More vigorous sports such as tennis and skiing are possible within three to four months. Swimming may be initiated as soon as the incision is fully healed.
Q) How long will my new knee last?
A) Most knee replacements can be expected to last 10 to 20 years. If you are overweight or extremely active, your new knee’s life span may be shorter.