Knee replacement surgery is a common procedure that is used to replace a knee joint that has been damaged by arthritis or other diseases. The surgery is done to improve the person’s quality of life by relieving pain and improving mobility. Learn more about the procedure below.

Why It Is Done

The knee joint is composed of the thighbone (femur), shinbone (tibia), and kneecap (patella). The ends of these bones are covered with cartilage, a smooth substance that protects the bones and allows them to move easily. Arthritis or other diseases can damage this cartilage. People who need knee replacement surgery usually have problems walking, climbing stairs, and getting in and out of chairs. Some also have knee pain at rest.

How to Prepare

You will need to talk to Dr. Nelson about the best way to prepare for knee replacement surgery. In most cases, he might advise you to stop taking certain medications and dietary supplements before your surgery. You’ll likely be instructed not to eat anything after midnight the day of your surgery.

You will also need to prepare for post-surgery. For several weeks after the procedure, you might need to use crutches or a walker, so arrange for them before your surgery. Make sure you have a ride home from the hospital and help with everyday tasks, such as cooking, bathing, and doing laundry. To make your home safer and easier to navigate during recovery, consider doing the following:

  • Create a living space on one floor since climbing stairs can be difficult.
  • Secure stairway handrails.
  • Get a stable chair with a firm seat cushion and back, and a footstool to elevate your leg.
  • Get a stable bench or chair for your shower.
  • Remove loose rugs and cords.

What to Expect

Before the surgery, Dr. Nelson and the anesthesiologist will use your input and preference to help decide whether to use general anesthesia, which makes you unconscious or spinal anesthesia, which leaves you awake but unable to feel pain from your waist down. You’ll be given an intravenous antibiotic before, during, and after the procedure to help prevent post-surgical infection. You might also be given a nerve block around your knee to numb it. The numbness wears off gradually after the procedure.

During the procedure, your knee will be in a bent position to expose all surfaces of the joint. After making an incision about 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 centimeters) long, Dr. Nelson will move aside your kneecap and cut away the damaged joint surfaces.

After preparing the joint surfaces, he attaches the pieces of the artificial joint. Before closing the incision, Dr. Nelson will bend and rotate your knee, testing it to ensure proper function. The surgery typically lasts about two hours.

After the procedure, you will be taken to the recovery room, where you will be closely monitored. How long you stay after surgery depends on your individual needs. Many people can go home that same day. Medications prescribed by Dr. Nelson should help control pain. 

Throughout your recovery, you will be encouraged to move your foot and ankle, which increases blood flow to your leg muscles and helps prevent swelling and blood clots. You’ll likely receive blood thinners and wear support hose or compression boots to further protect against swelling and clotting.

Once approved by Dr. Nelson, a physical therapist will show you how to exercise your new knee. Physical therapy will continue in a clinic or at home until your therapist feels comfortable will your mobility.

For most people, knee replacement provides pain relief, improved mobility, and a better quality of life. If instructions are properly followed and your body is treated with care, most knee replacements can be expected to last more than 15 years.

For more information on knee replacements or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Nelson, please give us a call at 435-774-8511.