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Knee Joint Replacement

What Is a Knee Joint Replacement?

The orthopedic procedure of knee joint replacement is called a total knee arthroplasty (TKA). This surgery involves replacing the existing knee joint with a manmade one. Orthopedic surgeons replace knee joints in order to end pain, stiffness, and loss of function.

What Are Reasons for a Knee Joint Replacement?

Both chronic osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis commonly cause people to lose knee function and damage the joint to the degree that they need a knee joint replacement (total knee arthroplasty or TKA). But knee damage may also stem from injury or infection. Sometimes, people with severe rheumatoid arthritis of the knee can require a TKA at an early age.

How Do Health-Care Professionals Perform a Knee Joint Replacement? How Long Does the Procedure Last?

During knee joint replacement surgery, the damaged parts of the knee joint are removed and manufactured components (prosthesis) are then placed in the knee. The three areas involved are

  • lower end of the thighbone (femur),
  • upper end of the shinbone (tibia), and
  • behind the kneecap (patella).

The prosthesis can have both metal and plastic parts. Some newer prostheses now are made of metal on metal, ceramic on ceramic, or ceramic on plastic.

The surgery for total knee replacement lasts about two hours and involves an incision over your knee. The thighbone and shinbone will be cut to prepare them for the new pieces. The patella will be moved at the beginning of the procedure, and later a bone cement will be utilized to fasten the prosthesis to it. This is the traditional way the procedure has been performed. Several modifications to the procedure can be made and partial knee replacements are options for certain joints, as well.

During the procedure, you will either have general anesthesia (when you are fully asleep) or a regional block (spinal or epidural with more localized anesthesia) that numbs your legs combined with an intravenous medication that will sedate you during the procedure. Your surgeon and anesthesiologist will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both techniques.

You will usually leave the hospital within a few days of the procedure and attend a rehabilitation facility that will help you get used to your new knee and eventually help you return to all your activities and hopefully many that you gave up due to pain or inability of your "old" knee to handle.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/29/2016

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Knee Joint Replacement:

Knee Joint Replacement - Side Effects

Please describe any side effects you had after your knee joint replacement.

Knee Joint Replacement - Recovery Time

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Osteoarthritis Treatment

Knee Joint Replacement

  • Joint replacement is removal of diseased or damaged bony ends and replacement with a manmade joint composed of a combination of metal and plastic. Knee joint replacement and hip replacement are the most common. Some joints, such as those of the spine, cannot be replaced presently.

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Total Knee Arthroplasty »

Total knee replacement in some form has been practiced for over 50 years.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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