Knee replacement surgery accounted for 4.6% of all USA operating room procedures back in 2011 – knee replacement surgery became one of the most common procedures to be performed when individuals are admitted to hospital for longer periods of time. In 2014, a total of 719.000 knee replacement surgeries have been performed in the USA alone, and there is an ever growing demand for it – specialists are saying that by 2030, 3.4 million knee replacements will be performed annually in the US.
1. What is Knee Replacement Surgery?
Knee replacement surgery, also known as a knee arthroplasty is a type of reconstructive procedure that replaces a worn down knee joint or just parts of it in order to relieve disability or pain. Here is a complete list of knee replacement procedures. A knee replacement is useful for patients that suffer from:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Severe deformity from trauma, rheumatoid arthritis
- Meniscus tears
- Cartilage defects
- Ligament tears
2. Partial Knee Replacement VS Total Knee Replacement
There are basically two types of knee replacement: total knee replacement and partial knee replacement, each having its own advantages and disadvantages. Find out more about Total Knee Replacements.
The knee itself is composed out of three separate structures made out of cartilage and bones:
- The patellofemoral (which is the joint located between the thighbone and kneecap),
- The lateral (the outside)
- The medial (the inside structure of the knee)
Usually, patients that have significant wear and tear in two or more of the knee structures should have a total knee replacement procedure. A partial knee replacement, also known as an unicompartmental arthroplasty is an option for around 10-30% of all knee replacement patients – this procedure is usually reserved for candidates that have the medial structure damaged or severely worn.
Partial Knee Replacement Advantages:
- Smaller incision is necessary
- The Post-operatory rehabilitation is easier
- Better range of motion during the post-operatory period
- Shorter hospital stay
- Lower risk of blood clots, stiffness or infection
While a partial knee replacement surgery may seem more advantageous than the traditional total knee replacement procedure, some doctors believe the latter is more reliable on the long term. Revisions after a partial knee replacement are quite complex and can lead to complications easily.
3. The Knee Replacement Recovery Period
Depending on the patient’s health and the result of the surgery, hospital stay is somewhere between 3 and 5 days. The patient will be able and is encouraged to walk in a couple of hours after the surgery. The patient will also have to use crutches or a walker, for a few weeks after the procedure. Physical therapy is also necessary after a knee replacement procedure, as it helps the knee restore its strength, motion and function. Complete recovery from a knee replacement surgery usually lasts around 3 months but improvement is often gradual and full use of the new knee comes into play many months later.
4. Knee Replacement Exercises
Straight Leg Lifts – While laying on your back with the legs fully extended, simply lift your leg around 15 cm and hold it for 10 seconds
Ankle pumps – For this exercise, all you have to do is sit on your back then bend your ankles up as much as possible and point your toes towards you. Then, you have to bend the ankles down and point the toes away from you.
The tight squeeze – You can tighten the muscles from the front of your thigh by simply pushing the back of your knee down, towards the floor. Try to hold like this for 10 seconds, then relax and repeat.
Leg slides – You can sit on your back and simply slide your leg out to the side, but make sure you keep your kneecap pointed upward. Once you’ve done it, slide your leg back to its initial position and repeat.
5. Knee Replacement Alternatives
Knee replacement surgery is not the only option to treating knee pain, but in some cases it’s necessary, because the joint is too worn out to do anything about it.
Losing Weight is Recommended
For patients that have been having knee pain for a relatively short period of time, losing weight is highly recommended as extra weight puts a lot of pressure on the knee joints and tends to wear them out much faster.
Arthroscopic Knee Surgery
An arthroscopic knee surgery can be useful for certain patients. Through this method, the surgeon will remove bone fragments or repair cartilage and tendons inside the knee. The arthroscopic method is a lot less invasive and requires a much shorter recovery period – just about a week!
Knee Shorts with Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid can be injected into the knee in order to lubricate it and also reduce wear and tear on the joints themselves. This type of procedure can improve mobility and in the same time reduce pain. The downside is that some patients can be allergic to hyaluronic acid.
Using Stem Cells to Treat Knee Pain
Knee treatment through stem cells is still quite experimental at this point, but the procedure can be used to regenerate the knee’s own cartilage. Bone marrow stem cells are taken from the hip bone and used to repair the knee and reduce pain.