Total Knee Replacement

What Should I Expect with a Total Knee Replacement?

A total knee replacement (TKR), also known as a total knee arthroplasty (TKA), is usually done as a result of severe degenerative changes of the joint surfaces. Osteoarthritis (OA) – the break down of cartilage in joints leading to bone-to-bone contact – is a common cause for the need of a TKA. Common causes of OA include genetics, being overweight, aging or the injury of a joint. The purpose of the replacement is to relieve your pain and allow you to become more active. Common symptoms associated with the need for a total knee replacement include difficulty with walking, climbing stairs and getting in and out of chairs. Most people experience moderate to severe knee pain with or without activity.

The Surgery

During a total knee replacement, your surgeon will remove the damaged portions of your knee joint – cartilage or bone – located on your thigh bone (femur), shin bone (tibia) and knee cap (patella). After this occurs, the surgeon will then replace the once damaged area with a man-made material – metal or plastic – to construct the new joint. The type of knee chosen by your surgeon will depend on your current age, weight, activity level and overall health. 

After Surgery

After surgery your surgeon will educate you on the prevention of blood clots and infection (rare). Blood thinners and support stockings are commonly provided to avoid swelling and blood clots. Early mobilization after surgery is crucial for an ideal recovery. Crutches or a walker may be necessary within the first weeks after surgery in order to accomplish this task. A temporary caretaker should be available to assist you with daily tasks such as cooking, bathing and laundry. Continuous passive motion machines may be given in order to prevent joint stiffness directly after surgery.

Physical Therapy: Treatment

Physical Therapy is a vital part of your recovery after a total knee replacement. Your physical therapist will focus on restoring your motion and function in your affected knee. Initially, knee extension (straightening your leg) will be the focus of your rehabilitation. Guided exercises and manual therapy will also be an early focus in order to restore the motion in your knee as quickly as possible. Light exercises will be given for strengthening and stretching and will need to be performed several times a day. Your exercise program will gradually increase in intensity throughout your rehabilitation process. The return of strength is an important aspect of your recovery, which may take an extended period of time. However, it is essential to regain strength in order to successfully return to your desired level of activity. You will then progress to walking various distances and ultimately advance to climbing stairs. The expected length of rehabilitation ranges from 6-8 weeks. TKR’s allow patients to eliminate their pain in order to return to some if not all of their prior activities. An improved overall quality of life is anticipated following a total knee replacement!