When I tell my patients that a total knee replacement is a good surgical option to relieve the pain they feel during walking and other daily activities, sometimes they are frightened by the phrase “total replacement.” In reality, when I perform a knee replacement, the muscles, tendons, collateral ligaments, most of the bone stock and even the knee cap (patella) are fully preserved.
The best way to explain knee replacement surgery is by comparing it to a common dental procedure, such as the crowning of a worn-out tooth. Only the degenerative, worn-out bone and cartilage is removed from the knee, followed by the placement of a metal (titanium) and high-impact plastic (polyethylene) prosthesis on the sculpted ends of the distal femur and proximal tibia—the parts of the knee that keep the body’s center of gravity balanced over the leg during the stride cycle.
The undersurface of the knee cap is re-shaped to allow placement of a stable plastic disc. No more than several millimeters of bone is removed from the surface of the arthritic knee in order to perform the “total knee replacement.” Patients retain their soft tissues, important muscles, tendons, collateral ligaments and most of the bone.
Knee replacement offers patients the opportunity to get back to their daily activities with little to no pain by creating a stable and comfortable joint. Patients can walk farther, climb stairs with ease, and engage in low-impact sports activities.
According to recent published studies, more than 90 percent of patients are pleased with their knee replacement surgeries 10 years later. Less than 1 percent of patients will have a complication that requires further medical care.
Remember, when surgery is performed by an experienced orthopaedic surgeon in a hospital that performs a high volume of joint surgeries, the complication rates are low.
Also, when the orthopaedic surgeon is personally involved in the patient’s care before, during and after surgery, as well as in supervising an orthopaedic team of nurses, therapists and assistants, patient satisfaction is exceedingly high.
Patients need not fear the words “total knee replacement;” the surgery can tremendously improve a patient’s quality of life.