Knee arthroplasty is recommended when all the other treatment options have not been successful in resolving your knee problems. Total knee replacement is a major surgery that you need to prepare for. Here are some of the things that you need to know about this medical procedure.
Preparing for a total knee replacement
Prior to surgery, your orthopaedic surgeon will evaluate if a total knee replacement is the best treatment for your condition based on the results of a series of tests which include:
- Medical history – During your check-up, your doctor will ask about your ongoing medications and health history.
- Physical examination – Your doctor will evaluate the movement and stability of your knee as well as the overall leg alignment.
- X-ray / Ultrasound / Computerised tomography (CT scan) / Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – The results of these tests will be your doctor's guide in determining the extent of knee damage.
- Other tests like blood test, urine test and electrocardiogram
Your doctor may recommend that you stop taking some medications and supplements before your surgery. You will also be asked not to eat anything for 8 hours before your surgery.
You also need to prepare for your surgery recovery. Set up secure handrails in your bathroom and along stairways. Put a stable chair in the shower area where you can sit while bathing. Prepare a comfortable and stable chair with two arms, a back, and a footstool.
During a total knee replacement
These days, a total knee replacement surgery can be an outpatient procedure that takes around 1 – 2 hours. However, there are some cases wherein hospital stay for 1 – 4 days will be required. Before the surgery, an intravenous line (IV) will be inserted into your vein to give you fluids and medicines. You will be given either a general anaesthesia or a spinal/epidural anaesthesia.
There are different ways to do the surgery. Your doctor may opt to make a cut in the front of your knee to remove the damaged surfaces of the thigh bone and shin as well as the parts of the joint. Afterwards, the orthopaedic surgeon will replace it with the artificial parts.
On the other hand, if your doctor will perform a minimally invasive surgery, a shorter cut will be made in the front of your knee. This type of surgery will lessen the damage to your muscle and tendon.
After a total knee replacement
After surgery, you will need to stay in the recovery room for 1 – 2 hours for observation. Once your pulse, breathing and blood pressure are stable, you will either be brought to your hospital room or you will be allowed to go home. You will need assistance when walking. Thus, you really need to have a companion with you all the time. You will also temporarily need to use crutches, a walker or a cane to help you with mobility.
Recovery period for a total knee replacement
Within a month, you can expect to have decreased pain and improved flexibility. Your progress will depend on your post-surgery activities. You will need to do some exercises for your knee to strengthen the muscles and avoid swelling. Having a personal physical therapist is helpful. The physical therapist can guide you on a suitable exercise routine.