Questions and Answers

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    When patients with severe knee pain are left with “Knee replacement surgery” as an only treatment option, along with patients their family has a lot of questions and concerns in their mind relating to the surgery and recovery process. Even if they are informed about the procedures and recovery during their preoperative consultation, patients may feel anxious and cannot ask all their concerns. So, in order to make people more comfortable and help to get their queries answered, here is a list of frequently asked questions by the patients when suggested to undergo knee replacement surgery.

    1. How long does a knee replacement last?
    2. What are the factors that affect the longevity of knee replacements?
    3. What are the complications of knee replacement surgery?
    4. What can you expect after knee replacement surgery?
    5. How long does it take to recover from a knee replacement?
    6. Is a knee replacement painful?
    7. Are there any alternatives to total knee replacement?
    8. How long do you stay in the hospital after knee replacement surgery?
    9. What is the success rate of knee replacement surgery?
    10. What is the average age for a knee replacement?
    11. Can I have both knees replaced at the same time?
    12. What causes pain after knee replacement?
    13. Is a knee replacement dangerous?
    14. Can you kneel down after a knee replacement?
    15. Can you run after a total knee replacement?
    16. How long does the pain last after knee replacement surgery?
    17. Is total knee replacement surgery considered major surgery?

    How long does a knee replacement last?

    It is one of the most common questions people have when they plan to go for knee replacement surgery. In the past, when the knee replacement procedures were first performed, it was thought that a knee implant would last approximately 10 years. But, fortunately, the improvements in the surgical techniques, prosthetic (implant) designs, bearing surfaces and fixation methods increased the survival rate of the implants. At present, it is estimated that approximately 85% of the knee implants would last approximately 20 years or much longer.

    However, wear and tear on the joint will adversely affect the lifespan of the implant and its functioning. If younger people who undergo knee replacement and are more likely to have the joint wear out, they might require a revision during their lifetime.

    For More Information:

    What are the factors that affect the longevity of knee replacements?

    Though the advancements in medical science made the knee replacements last for quite a long time, there are some factors that might influence their longevity.

    Here is a list of factors that might affect the longevity of a knee replacement:

    Factors affecting the longevity of knee replacements: Age Activities | Weight

    Age: When compared to older patients, younger require a knee replacement to last much longer. This might be due to their increased activity levels which pose greater stress on the implant. Therefore, patients who have a knee replacement in their 50’s or even earlier would usually require a revision knee replacement in their lifetime.

    Activities: Knee replacements pose limitations on the patient’s activities. Though some activities may not be painful or difficult, they may not be appropriate for the patients who have undergone a knee replacement. Inappropriate activities can place excess stress on the knee replacement and cause the parts to wear out more quickly.

    Weight: The more a person weighs, the more is the stress placed on the knee joint. Maintaining healthy body weight is critical while trying to make a knee replacement last for a long time. After a knee replacement, the patient should opt for appropriate exercises to maintain healthy body weight and the knee joint as well.

    What are the complications of knee replacement surgery?

    Most of the knee replacement surgeries are successful and problem-free. But, in rare cases, there might be some complications that are minor and can be successfully treated.

    Complications of a knee replacement surgery:

    Blood clots:

    Blood clots in the veins of the legs known as “Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)” is one of the most frightening complications of knee replacement surgery. These clots can get displaced and travel through the veins to the heart and to the lungs. So, patients will be prescribed blood-thinning medicines to prevent clots from forming after the surgery. Also, special stockings and leg exercises are also advised to reduce the risk of DVT.

    Bone fracture:

    In people with weak bones, the bone around the replacement joint is susceptible to break even after a minor fall. Though it is extremely rare, when this happens it needs to be treated with surgery to fix the fracture or replace the joint components.

    Infection:

    Since knee replacement surgery is performed in a filtered operating room with sterile instruments, infections are rare. Also, patients are given antibiotics before and after the surgery to lower the risk of infection. But in some cases, even with these precautions, patients may suffer from infections. The risk for infection increases in patients with diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, patients had an infection in any part of their body during surgery.

    Implant loosening:

    One of the potential problems of knee replacement in the long-term is implant loosening. This can be a result of infection or the improper techniques used during the surgery, poor bone health, obesity or the force exerted on the implant from accidents.

    Nerve & tissue damage:

    In rare cases, nerve damage can occur during the surgery. However, it usually improves gradually in time. Also, ligament or arteries damage might occur during the surgery, which needs further surgery to repair.

    What can you expect after knee replacement surgery?

    After the knee replacement surgery, the patient can stand on his feet within a day with the help of parallel bars, crutches or a walker. Eventually, the patient will be able to stand and move on their own without any support. After undergoing knee replacement surgery, one can experience a lot of improvement in the flexibility of the joint with minimal pain within a month. Patients are advised to do knee exercises in order to reduce the swelling and make muscles stronger. In addition to exercises, the patient might need some sessions of physiotherapy to strengthen the repaired knee. The number of physiotherapy sessions varies for each person depending on their health and motivation.

    How long does it take to recover from a knee replacement?

    The time for recovery after a knee replacement surgery varies from person to person, depending on the individual and the type of surgery carried out. Majority of the patients who undergo knee replacement, experience dramatic improvement within 4 to 6 weeks of surgery. After six weeks, patients can walk comfortably with little support and can resume their daily activities (except running and jumping) after restoring the muscle strength with the help of physiotherapy. It may take 3 months to a year to fully recover and realize the benefits of knee replacement surgery.

    Is a knee replacement painful?

    It is common to experience some pain after knee replacement, but it should diminish quickly mostly within four or five days. The patient would be given either a nerve block on the day of surgery or long-acting anesthesia during the surgery to help with the postoperative pain relief.  During the hospital stay after surgery, the doctor prescribes medications for pain management which can be given intravenously or taken orally. After discharge, the patient will be switched to painkillers.

    After the patient has recovered from the surgery, he/she should experience significantly less pain in the knee joint than it used to be before undergoing the surgery.

    Are there any alternatives to total knee replacement?

    Since knee replacement is major surgery, many people search for alternatives. There are things which can help people either to delay the need for surgery or will improve their fitness before having surgery but cannot totally avoid it. Non-surgical treatments can delay the need for surgery.

    Non-surgical treatments for knee pain: Weight loss | Exercise

    Weight loss:

    Losing extra pounds will reduce the strain on the knee. In people who are overweight, the stress that is placed on the knees when they take a single step is three to four times of their weight. So, losing even a small weight can lower the stress on the knee and delay the need for surgery.

    Exercise:

    Though it can be difficult to exercise because of the pain, some form of non-impact exercises can improve the strength and flexibility of the knee. But, it is always suggested to take a doctor’s advice before starting any type of exercise with knee pain.

    How long do you stay in the hospital after knee replacement surgery?

    Usually, in most cases of knee replacement, the hospital stay would typically last from 1 to 4 days, depending on how fast the patient is recovered.

    But before the patient is discharged from the hospital, he/she should accomplish some goals, which include:

    • Getting in and out of the bed by themselves
    • Having the ability to manage pain
    • Being able to have food and use the bathroom
    • Walking with some assistance using a cane, walker, or crutches and able to climb up and down two or three stairs.
    • Being able to perform the exercises prescribed by the doctor.
    • Understanding the precautions to prevent any injuries and ensure proper healing.

    If the patient is not able to accomplish any of these goals, it is unsafe to get discharged. Hence, the hospital stay might be extended.

    What is the success rate of knee replacement surgery?

    Knee replacement surgery is one of the most successful surgical procedures performed in these days. It is known to successfully relieve the pain and restore the flexibility and functioning in patients with advanced knee arthritis. The advancements in medical science have improved the life of implants to a much extent than earlier, which limits the need for revision of the surgery to very few cases.

    The success rates and quality of the life improvements for knee replacement patients are reliably very high and approximately 95% of the patients reported that they were satisfied with their procedure. In addition, most of them have experienced relief from knee pain within a short period of time and could get back to their daily life with “No Pain”.

    What is the average age for a knee replacement?

    The age of most of the people who undergo knee replacement surgery ranges from 50 to 80 years. The average age is about 70 years. Since a knee replacement helps to relieve pain, increase mobility and improve quality of life; even younger people would be suggested to undergo knee replacement for some reason.

    These include factors that contribute to the joint disease including genetics, developmental abnormalities, repetitive injuries that could damage the knee joint and obesity which places excess stress on the knee joint and affects its functioning.  

    Can I have both knees replaced at the same time?

    Many patients suffer from arthritis in both the knees. These patients can consider having both knees replaced at the same time during a single surgery. Getting both knees at the same time include many advantages such as patient convenience and shorter recovery time. Also, patients who undergo bilaterally (both) knee replacement have a high success rate when compared to others.  

    In some cases, getting a bilateral knee replacement in a single surgery might result in complications such as blood clots that goes to the lungs and heart attack. So, people who are at risk of cardiac and pulmonary complications should consider waiting at least 3 months before proceeding with the second knee replacement.

    What causes pain after knee replacement?

    A knee replacement is considered to relieve pain and increase the flexibility of the knee joint to improve one’s quality of life. So, experiencing significant pain after a knee replacement surgery is not common and shouldn’t be ignored.

    The pain after a knee replacement would be because of the possible complications that would arise from the surgery, which include:

    • Blood clots
    • Bone fracture
    • Infection
    • Adhesion
    • Nerve or tissue damage
    • Implant loosening

    So, if a patient experiences pain which couldn’t be manageable should consult their surgeon to evaluate for both direct and indirect causes of the pain.

    Is a knee replacement dangerous?

    In the early 1970s, when the knee replacement was first performed, there used to be a risk of complications though it was successful. But over time, the advancements in medical science have improved the success rates and lowered the risk of complications with the computer-navigation technique.

    Performing a knee replacement surgery by using a computer navigation technique, helps the doctor to place the implant in the right position with nearly 100% accuracy and appropriate implant fixation with minimal errors. Therefore, it helps to lower the risk of possible complications that would arise from surgical errors and increase implant durability. Computer navigation technique makes it easy to perform a knee replacement even in the cases of complex, extra-articular deformities and in obese. Hence, knee replacement surgery is totally safe and effective.

    Can you kneel down after a knee replacement?

    Undergoing a knee replacement surgery means getting a new knee (artificial). Though it improves a person’s quality of life by relieving pain that used to bother him/her with arthritis, it can never work as well as an original knee. But with pain relief and improved flexibility, one can be able to resume most of their normal activities.

    Most of the people who have a plan to undergo knee replacement surgery often have a question whether they can kneel down after surgery or not. With the improved motion of the knee joint, patients will be able to kneel down after the surgery. Kneeling doesn’t cause any damage to the replacement. Some patients can feel difficulty while kneeling down and do not like the feel of it. So, it depends on an individual whether to try or not; but it is important to take doctor’s advice before attempting any activities that might cause any damage to the replacement.     

    Can you run after a total knee replacement?

    High-impact exercises pose excess stress on the knee replacements which decreases their durability. Since running is one of the high-impact exercises, most of the doctor’s advice not to run. In addition, a person’s age also influences the choice of activities after undergoing surgery.

    People who are 60 or older are recommended not to try running and other high-impact activities that could increase the risk of damaging the knee joint. Younger patients who have had knee replacement can try to run by seeking their doctor’s advice and strictly performing exercises prescribed by the doctor.

    How long does the pain last after knee replacement surgery?

    After the knee replacement surgery, the patient experiences pain not due to arthritis but from the wound healing and inflammation. However, pain, swelling and bruising is a part of the natural recovery process. Typically, most of the patients get relieved from pain in 3 to 4 weeks from the time of surgery and can resume their normal activities with minimal assistance. Taking necessary precautions and performing prescribed exercises by their physiotherapists can speed up the recovery and improves the functioning of the new knee joint with no pain.

    Is total knee replacement surgery considered major surgery?

    Since knee replacement surgery involves the replacement of damaged portions of the knee with the prosthesis (artificial parts) and hospitalization, it is considered a major surgery. It also approximately three months of time for a person to recover and resume his/her daily activities after the surgery. But, besides all these, knee replacement relieves the patients from the severe pain that was bothering them before undergoing the surgery and lets them get back to their daily activities with no pain.

    Please be noted that the information provided in the FAQs is generalized and a patient with any particular questions should always contact their doctor.