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What is Knee Replacement Surgery?

The replacement of an ailing or injured knee with an implant is known as knee replacement surgery. Also known as knee arthroplasty, this is the last line of treatment where total joint replacement occurs and is usually preceded by other first line treatment options such as physical therapy, knee braces, walking sticks and medication. Weakening of the knees is most commonly attributed to arthritis; both osteoarthritis (caused by breakdowns in joint cartilage and foundational bone) and rheumatoid arthritis (a prolonged autoimmune disorder which affects the joints primarily).

The knee is replaced by an artificial joint known as prosthesis, which is made from a combination of metallic alloys, polymers and plastic. The inception of total knee replacement therapy can be traced back to 1974 when the combined efforts of doctors John Insall, Chitranjan Ranawat, Allan Inglis and biochemical engineer Peter Walker rendered the very first total condylar knee. This enabled people to live normal lives without continuously suffering from knee pain.

The surgery has become very common nowadays and many advances have been made in knee replacement. Prosthetic knees are customisable and patients can easily consult their orthopaedic doctors; who will take into account factors such as age, height, weight, physical capacity and an overall health assessment before prescribing specifications. The total time taken for knee replacement with the implant is approximately forty minutes, the recovery and rehabilitation can last a few months in some cases.

The symptoms associated with the need for knee replacement can also be one run of the mill and easily treatable. There are some crucial factors, which must be taken into account while considering knee replacement. For instance, how severely your knee pains while performing regular daily activities; whether your knee is deformed or if it “blows out”; along with age (usually people over the age of fifty-five require this surgery) and overall health.

If you require a knee replacement, you must prepare and plan for the process and life thereafter. Your doctor will put you through a set of tests such as a full medical history, physical examinations, blood tests, X-Rays and pain management. You must inform your doctor about your ongoing medication (including over the counter drugs), any history of ailments. Allergies to anaesthetics need to be determined in order for the doctor to determine whether to use general anaesthesia during surgery, where you’ll be put to sleep or anaesthesia to the spine which will keep you awake yet free of pain.

During surgery the surgeon will cut a long score above your knee and pull back the skin and muscle during which time they’ll remove the damaged cartilage and bone. Then the prosthetic knee will be installed onto the thigh bone and tibia. Cement, pins and screws will be used for fixing the prosthetic.

Post-Surgery requires most time and effort. You’ll most likely need to use a walker to move around for the first few weeks at least. Arrangements will need to be made in order to make your living space accommodative for post-surgery recovery. This should essentially include installation of handles in shower areas and toilets, an arrangement for you to sit down and put up your leg in order to stretch and relax, ideally reside on the ground floor so as to avoid stairs altogether. Post-surgery therapy may also include counselling as the road to recovery can be an arduous one. Regular visits to or from an orthopaedic doctor might be required for rehabilitation and total recovery. People are urged to be cautious and aware of their surroundings in order to avoid any mishaps while the surgery is relatively recent.

There are a few risk elements involved with knee replacement surgery such as the new knee wearing out in due course of time, damaged nerves, bleeding, high fever and even infections which might fester in the artificial knee. For the record; in no way are these side effects certain and are often few and far in between. With new state of the art technology such as precise robotic assistance and intervention, complete placement precision and other advances in knee replacement; the prospects of patients suffering from knee related issues are bright indeed. It is now much easier to envisage a normal and pain free life post knee replacement.

Dr. Aashish Chaudhry
Managing Director & Sr. Consultant
Orthopaedics & Joint Replacement

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