Knee replacement surgery is performed to reduce pain and improve activity levels caused by a diseased knee joint. It involves replacing a damaged knee joint with an artificial one that is made of metal and plastic and mimics normal knee function.
The surgery is commonly done when there is knee joint damage caused by conditions such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, which limit your ability to walk and carry out normal activities.
Knee replacement surgery is performed by an orthopedic surgeon in a hospital.
Risks and precautions
In general, any surgery and the use of anesthesia comes with some risks that are associated with factors like your overall health (e.g., having other conditions such as diabetes, or poor blood flow) and what the surgery involves. Side effects are very rare but can include trouble breathing, reactions to the anesthetic, bleeding, infection, scarring, and death. Other potential risks associated with knee replacement surgery are:
- stiffening of the new joint
- nerve damage
- blood clots in the legs or lungs
- heart attack or stroke
Talk to your doctor if you are worried about any of the symptoms or side effects you experience after this procedure.
It is important that you understand all the risks of complications and side effects of the procedure, and what you or your doctor can do to avoid them. Make sure that your doctor is aware of all your concerns.
Before the procedure
In the weeks leading up to knee replacement surgery, you will meet with the orthopedic surgeon to discuss the surgery and any questions you might have. A preadmission check will be ordered, which may consist of several tests such as X-rays, ultrasounds, electrocardiograms (ECGs), or blood tests.
You may be asked to donate your own blood for use during surgery. You should find out whether you will need to purchase any special equipment before you have the surgery so that you are prepared when you go home.
You may not be able to eat or drink before the procedure; it is important to follow the timing that your doctor recommended, otherwise you run the risk of the surgery being cancelled or postponed. In general, people are advised to not eat for 8 hours before the procedure; and most hospitals ask that you do not drink or eat anything after midnight the night before the procedure.
If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter (non-prescription) medications, supplements, or herbal products, make sure you inform your doctor or pharmacist. Ask them whether it is necessary for you to stop taking any of these medications and products before the procedure. It is also important to tell them if you have allergies to certain medications, bandages, latex, or have other medical conditions.
Plan to have someone drive you home from the hospital. You will also need someone to assist you with daily activities for several weeks after you leave the hospital.