A knee replacement is a type of surgery to replace a damaged knee joint. It is generally considered a safe and effective procedure. Knee replacements can relieve knee pain and allow you to be more active, if you find medicines and other non-surgical treatments are not helping.
What is a knee replacement?
Knee replacements may be total or partial. In a total knee replacement, the surgeon removes damaged cartilage (the tissue at the ends of bones that cushions the joints) and bone from the surface of your knee joint.
These are replaced with an artificial surface of metal and plastic. A knee replacement is also called a knee arthroplasty.
In a partial knee replacement, the surgeon replaces only the affected part of your knee joint and leaves the healthy parts alone.
When is it recommended?
The most common reason for a knee replacement is osteoarthritis. Knee replacements are usually considered as a last option to treat persistent severe knee pain or disability after other treatments have been tried or considered. For a person with arthritis, these other treatments may include:
- non-impact exercise
- other surgical procedures, such as keyhole surgery (arthroscopy) or osteotomy.
If you are overweight, losing some weight might help ease the pain.
What are the possible risks and complications of knee replacement surgery?
Knee replacement surgery is generally considered safe and effective. However, complications can include:
- blood clots in the leg veins
- implant problems
- continued pain
- injury to your nerves or blood vessels during surgery.
Should I have a knee replacement?
To help you decide, you might want to ask your surgeon questions such as:
- What are the alternatives to surgery?
- What are the possible complications and how likely are they?
- What can I expect during the recovery period?
- How much improvement can I realistically expect after surgery?
- Would a new knee last all my life?
How long will it take to recover after the surgery?
Most people spend about 5 to 7 days in hospital after a knee replacement surgery. How quickly you get back to normal depends on many factors, including your age and general health and fitness.
You will probably need a cane, crutches or walking frame in the first few weeks and an exercise program to help you recover.
Last reviewed: February 2016