Is it time to replace a worn-out knee with a new one? That’s a question you may be asking if you have a painful knee damaged by arthritis or an injury. A total knee replacement (TKR) is a big step—it’s major surgery. Still, as many as 700,000 knee replacements are performed every year nationwide. And more than 90% of people who opt for new knees see a significant improvement in their pain and ability to move freely.
Steven Morton, DO, FAOAO, FAAOS, CPE, MBA, is an orthopaedic surgeon at HSHS Medical Group General Surgery in Breese and Highland. Dr. Morton says, “A total knee replacement typically is the right choice only if you’ve tried nonsurgical options—such as medicine, injections, walking supports and physical therapy—and they’re no longer helpful.” Then an artificial knee makes sense if you still have:
Severe pain or stiffness that limits your everyday activities. For example, you may not be able to walk more than a few blocks without pain.
Moderate or severe knee pain while resting.
Chronic knee inflammation and swelling that doesn’t improve with rest or medications.
A knee deformity, such as a bowed knee.
What can you expect if you and your doctor decide a TKR is in your best interest?
The surgery itself takes about 60-90 minutes. You’ll likely stay in the hospital one or two days, but some patients go home the same day of the surgery.
Knee replacement is primarily performed to help relieve pain from osteoarthritis. During knee replacement surgery, the surgeon removes the ends of the bones at the knee and replace them with prosthetic implants.
Dr. Morton is also trained on the MAKO robotic arm used at HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital Highland for total knee and hip replacements. The Mako Robotic-Arm Assisted System allows surgeons to treat painful knee and hip conditions with precision and more accurate implant alignment. Patients can experience greater accuracy, minimal scarring and faster recovery from knee and hip replacement surgeries performed by use of the MAKO robot.
Your recovery from surgery starts immediately. “Chances are you’ll start exercising your new knee the day after surgery—and maybe even on the same day,” says Dr. Morton. A physical therapist will teach you specific exercises to strengthen your knee and restore its function. Exercise is a crucial part of your recovery, especially in the first few weeks after surgery.
The good news: TKR is almost always a safe surgery. Serious complications occur in fewer than 2% of all knee replacements.
As for the implants themselves, they have staying power. With normal use and activity, most can last for 15 to 20 years.
Talk to your primary care provider to see if a TKR is the right solution for your knee pain. For more information about Dr. Morton and the care he provides, call 618-651-2732.
Sources: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; Arthritis Foundation; UpToDate