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Total Knee Replacement FAQs

Posted by George Branovacki, MD on September 5, 2017

total-knee-replacement-faqs.jpgFor patients who have been told that they’re candidates for total knee replacement, it’s perfectly natural to have a great deal of questions. Patients and family members want to know what to do to prepare, what will be done during the surgery and what to expect about recovery.

If you're preparing for total knee replacement, keep in mind that while it may feel like you're stepping into the unknown, orthopedic surgeons successfully perform these procedures every day.

To provide some peace of mind, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about total knee replacement.

What is Causing My Chronic Knee Pain?

Both arthritis and injury are common causes of chronic knee pain, with arthritis as the most common culprit.

Osteoarthritis is the type seen most often and occurs when the cartilage in joints breaks down, eliminating the cushion between bones and leading them to painfully grind against one another. The condition can also cause stiffness in the joints as well.

Do I Really Need Total Knee Replacement Surgery?

When a surgeon recommends knee replacement, a patient has likely exhausted other non-surgical treatment options for joint pain, stiffness and swelling that are limiting their ability to perform routine daily activities.

If discomfort persists despite medicine, rest, physical therapy and other treatments, knee replacement may be the best option.

What Will Happen During Surgery?

Total knee replacement generally takes one to two hours to complete. Steps include:

  • Removal of damaged cartilage and bone surface from the tibia and femur
  • Replacement of the surface areas of the damaged joint using implants
  • For surgeons who use the VERASENSE sensor-assisted wireless device, the sensor is inserted to guide the implant position and any adjustments to soft tissue, which can help to improve knee balance over time.
  • Once the knee is positioned and balanced, VERASENSE is removed and a plastic spacer is inserted to ensure a smooth surface.

What Can I Expect About Recovery?

Each individual has a different path to recovery that depends on their physical condition prior to surgery, any additional medical problems and adherence to post-surgery recommendations.

Generally speaking, it can take up to three months for patients to be able to return to most activities, and it can take six months to a year for them to get back to maximum strength.

Am I Ready?

Patients should consult with their orthopedic surgeons and specialists before deciding on total knee replacement as a treatment option, setting expectations about what to expect before, during and after surgery.

Gathering as much information beforehand as possible is one of the best ways to ensure that they’re ready for replacement.

Complete Guide to Joint Pain

Topics: Knee

About the author: George Branovacki, MD


Dr. Branovacki is an orthopedic specialist at Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants specializing in joint reconstruction and revisions and sports medicine. He completed his adult reconstruction fellowship training at Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California. He is a graduate of Northwestern University Medical School and completed his orthopedic surgery residency at University of Illinois at Chicago.

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