Knee Replacement


Knee Replacement

Knee replacement surgery or knee arthroplasty , is a surgical procedure to replace the weight-bearing surfaces of the knee joint to relieve pain and disability. It is most commonly performed for osteoarthritis, and also for other knee diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. In patients with severe deformity from advanced rheumatoid arthritis, trauma, or long-standing osteoarthritis, the surgery may be more complicated and carry higher risk. Osteoporosis does not typically cause knee pain, deformity, or inflammation and is not a reason to perform knee replacement.

Other major causes of debilitating pain include meniscus tears, cartilage defects, and ligament tears. Debilitating pain from osteoarthritis is much more common in the elderly.

Knee replacement surgery can be performed as a partial or a total knee replacement surgery. In general, the surgery consists of replacing the diseased or damaged joint surfaces of the knee with metal and plastic components shaped to allow continued motion of the knee. Joint replacement surgery is removing a damaged joint and putting in a new one.

The operation typically involves substantial postoperative pain, and includes vigorous physical rehabilitation. The recovery period may be 6 weeks or longer and may involve the use of mobility aids (e.g. walking frames, canes, crutches) to enable the patient’s return to preoperative mobility.

Medical uses Knee replacement

Knee replacement surgery is most commonly performed in people with advanced osteoarthritis and should be considered when conservative treatments have been exhausted. Total knee replacement is also an option to correct significant knee joint or bone trauma in young patients. Similarly, total knee replacement can be performed to correct mild valgus or varus deformity. Serious valgus or varus deformity should be corrected by osteotomy. Physical therapy has been shown to improve function and may delay or prevent the need for knee replacement. Pain is often noted when performing physical activities requiring a wide range of motion in the knee joint.


Risks and complications in knee replacement surgery are similar to those associated with all joint replacements. The most serious complication is infection of the joint, which occurs in < 1% of patients. Deep vein thrombosis occurs in up to 15% of patients, and is symptomatic in 2–3%. Nerve injuries occur in 1–2% of patients. Persistent pain or stiffness occurs in 8–23% of patients. Prosthesis failure occurs in approximately 2% of patients at 5 years.

There is increased risk in complications for obese people going through total knee replacement. The morbidly obese should be advised to lose weight before surgery and, if medically eligible, would probably benefit from bariatric surgery.

Fracturing or chipping of the polyethylene platform inserted onto of the tibial component may be a concern. These fragments may become lodged in the knee and create pain or may move into other parts of the body. Recent advancements in production have greatly reduced these issues but over the lifespan of the knee replacement there is potential.


Periprosthetic fractures are becoming more frequent with the aging patient population and can occur intraoperatively or postoperatively.

Loss of Motion

The knee at times may not recover its normal range of motion (0–135 degrees usually) after total knee replacement. Much of this is dependent on pre-operative function. Most patients can achieve 0–110 degrees, but stiffness of the joint can occur. In some situations, manipulation of the knee under anesthetic is used to reduce post-operative stiffness. There are also many implants from manufacturers that are designed to be “high-flex” knees, offering a greater range of motion.


In some patients, the kneecap is unrevertable post-surgery and dislocates to the outer side of the knee. This is painful and usually needs to be treated by surgery to realign the kneecap. However this is quite rare.

In the past, there was a considerable risk of the implant components loosening over time as a result of wear. As medical technology has improved however, this risk has fallen considerably. Knee replacement implants can now last up to 20 years.


The current classification of AAOS divides prosthetic infections into four types:-

        • Type 1 (positive intraoperative culture): Two positive intraoperative cultures
        •  Type 2 (early postoperative infection): Infection occurring within first month after surgery
        •  Type 3 (acute hematogenous infection): Hematogenous seeding of site of previously well-functioning prosthesis
        • Type 4 (late chronic infection): Chronic indolent clinical course; infection present for more than a month

While it is relatively rare, periprosthetic infection remains one of the most challenging complications of joint arthroplasty. A detailed clinical history and physical remain the most reliable tool to recognize a potential periprosthetic infection. In some cases the classic signs of fever, chills, painful joint, and a draining sinus may be present, and diagnostic studies are simply done to confirm the diagnosis. In reality though, most patients do not present with those clinical signs, and in fact the clinical presentation may overlap with other complications such as aseptic loosening and pain. In those cases diagnostic tests can be useful in confirming or excluding infection.


Model of total knee replacement

The surgery involves exposure of the front of the knee, with detachment of part of the quadriceps muscle (vastus medialis) from thepatella. The patella is displaced to one side of the joint, allowing exposure of the distal end of the femur and the proximal end of thetibia. The ends of these bones are then accurately cut to shape using cutting guides oriented to the long axis of the bones. The cartilages and the anterior cruciate ligament are removed; the posterior cruciate ligament may also be removed but the tibial and fibular collateral ligaments are preserved. Metal components are then impacted onto the bone or fixed using polymethylmethacrylate(PMMA) cement. Alternative techniques exist that affix the implant without cement. These cement-less techniques may involveosseointegration, including porous metal prostheses.

Femoral replacement

Total knee replacement surgery hardware, including femoral head, tibial plate, patellar plate, and meniscus replacement surgery plate. A round ended implant is used for the femur, mimicking the natural shape of the joint. On the tibia the component is flat, although it sometimes has a stem which goes down inside the bone for further stability. A flattened or slightly dished high density polyethylene surface is then inserted onto the tibial component so that the weight is transferred metal to plastic not metal to metal. During the operation any deformities must be corrected, and the ligaments balanced so that the knee has a good range of movement and is stable and aligned. In some cases the articular surface of the patella is also removed and replaced by a polyethylene button cemented to the posterior surface of the patella. In other cases, the patella is replaced unaltered.

Partial knee replacement

Partial knee replacement, is an option for some patients. The knee is generally divided into three “compartments”: medial (the inside part of the knee), lateral (the outside), and patellofemoral (the joint between the kneecap and the thighbone). Most patients with arthritis severe enough to consider knee replacement have significant wear in two or more of the above compartments and are best treated with total knee replacement. A minority of patients (the exact percentage is hotly debated but is probably between 10 and 30 percent) have wear confined primarily to one compartment, usually the medial, and may be candidates for unicompartmental knee replacement.

Post-operative rehabilitation

The length of post-operative hospitalization is 5 days on average depending on replacement surgery and health.