Knee replacement is usually indicated in severe instances of joint damage – often caused by arthritis – resulting in significant levels of pain and a detrimentally impacted quality of life. The worn or diseased knee is replaced with either a total knee replacement, or if localized, one side of your joint is removed to allow for fitment of a partial knee replacement. A knee replacement can be expected to last up to 20 years if cared for correctly.
Partial Knee Replacement (PKR or UKR)
The most common type of partial knee replacement is the Oxford Unicompartmental Knee Replacement (UKR). This diseased/damaged area is removed and replaced with metal alloy and high density plastic components. Recovery is usually quicker, the surgical incision site is smaller and patients often benefit from improved range of movement and flexion.
Total Knee Replacement (TKR)
A total knee replacement involves removing the damaged joint surface and replacing it with new metal components shaped to fit your femur and tibia. A strong plastic disc is then placed between the 2 components to form your new joint surface.
Length of stay in hospital is usually between 3-5 days, although some patients may be able to leave a little sooner. Your consultant will advise on exact factors for consideration, for instance if you are having a bilateral knee replacement your stay may be a little longer. Your physiotherapist will generally aim at helping you mobilise 12-24 hours after your surgery and will provide you with a specific exercise programme to strengthen your knee and improve flexion. Sometimes your physiotherapist may decide to put you on a passive motion machine which helps restore movement in your leg and knee. Your physiotherapist may recommend using mobility aids such as a frame or crutches for walking as these provide support and assistance with weight-bearing.
Pain & Swelling
A knee replacement is major surgery and carries some risk of complications such as pain, stiffness, swelling and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Your consultant will prescribe adequate pain relieving medications which are vital in promoting wound healing and recovery time. Ice may also be applied using a piece of equipment known as a Cryo Cuff and these are scientifically endorsed for significantly improving pain, reducing swelling and improving functional knee scores (Annals of Medicine Surgery, 2015). Elevating your leg will also help reduce swelling.
Article by Rhonda Herring for Lynden Hill Clinic Patient Information Series