What is osteoarthritis and why does my knee hurt?
Joint cartilage is a tough, smooth tissue that covers the ends of bones where joints are located. It helps cushion the bones during movement, and because it is smooth and slippery, it allows for motion with minimal friction. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a wear and tear condition that destroys joint cartilage. Sometimes as the result of trauma, repetitive movement, or for no apparent reason, the cartilage wears down, exposing bone ends. This can occur quickly over months or may take years to occur. Cartilage destruction can result in painful bone-on-bone contact, along with swelling and loss of motion. Osteoarthritis usually occurs later in life and may affect only one joint or many joints.
What is a total knee replacement?
A total knee replacement is really a bone and cartilage replacement with an artificial surface. The knee itself is not replaced, as is commonly thought, but rather an implant is inserted on the bone ends. This is done with a metal alloy on the femur and plastic spacer on the tibia and patella (kneecap). This creates a new, smooth cushion and a functioning joint that can reduce or eliminate pain.
What are the results of total knee replacement?
Results will vary depending on the quality of the surrounding tissue, the severity of the arthritis at the time of surgery, the patient's activity level, and the patient's adherence to the doctor's orders.
When should I have this type of surgery?
Your orthopedic surgeon will decide if you are a candidate for the surgery. This will be based on your history, exam, X-rays, and response to conservative treatment. The decision will then be yours.
Am I too old for this surgery?
Age is generally not a factor if you are in reasonable health and have the desire to continue living a productive, active life. You may be asked to see your personal physician for his/her opinion about your general health and readiness for surgery.
How long will my new knee last and can a second replacement be done?
All implants have a limited life expectancy depending on an individual's age, weight, activity level, and medical condition(s). A total joint implant's longevity will vary in every patient. It is important to remember that an implant is a medical device subject to wear that may lead to mechanical failure. While it is important to follow all of your surgeon's recommendations after surgery, there is no guarantee that your particular implant will last for any specific length of time.
Why might I require a revision?
Just as your original joint wears out, a joint replacement will wear over time as well. The most common reason for revision is loosening of the artificial surface from the bone. Wearing of the plastic spacer may also result in the need for a new spacer. Your surgeon will explain the possible complications associated with total knee replacement.