This past year, over 200,000 Americans had their arthritic knees replaced. Total knee replacement began in the 1970s, and has evolved as a safe and reliable surgical procedure to help patients with debilitating joint pain and deformity. 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, 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 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 further, climb stairs with ease and engage in low impact sports activities.
According to recent published studies, more than 90% of patients are pleased with their knee replacement surgeries 10 years later. Less than 1% of patients will have a complication that requires further medical care. When surgery is performed by an experienced orthopaedic surgeon in a hospital that performs a considerable volume of joint surgeries, the complication rates are quite low. When the orthopaedic surgeon is personally involved in the perioperative care of the patient, as well as supervising an orthopaedic team of nurses, therapists and assistants, patient satisfaction is exceedingly high.