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Total Knee Replacement

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a knee replacement?

A knee replacement is an elective surgery, replacing the bottom end of the femur and the top end of the tibia with a man made device (prosthesis). The back surface of the patella is also commonly resurfaced. Total knee replacement is not a complete solution to the problem as they become loose with time and may need to be revised (which means another operation) within ten to fifteen years.

What are the benefits of a total knee replacement?

You do not have to live with a painful knee for the rest of your life. During this surgery your problem knee joint is replaced with an artificial joint (a prosthesis). After a total knee replacement, you can look forward to moving more easily and without pain.

What is the prosthesis made of?

These devices are combinations of metal and plastic and sometimes ceramic materials.

What is used to attach it to my bones?

They are fixed to the bone either using bone cement or by using a prosthesis with a rough surface, which relies on your bone growing on to the implant for long term stability. It may be reinforced with screws on the tibial side. In between the two components is a special plastic liner made out of polyethylene.

Who is offered total knee replacement as an option?

When you have arthritis on your X-ray and pain and stiffness from your knee joint cause:

  • Severe disability
  • Difficulty or inability to perform your job
  • Interference with your leisure activities
  • Interference with your walking or mobility
  • Difficulty putting on shoes and socks
  • Waking you at night despite non operative treatment such as drugs
Or when conservative treatment such as analgesia, anti-inflammatories, weight loss, physiotherapy and aids like crutches or a cane has failed.

Remember that it is an elective procedure and should only be performed when you are no longer prepared to put up with your pain and disability and understand the benefits versus the risks involved.

Is the procedure safe?

Knee replacement procedures have come a long way since their beginning in Ancient Egypt. They are now a very commonly performed procedure and advancements continue to be made.

However, there are risks in any operation. You can read about the general complications here. Some complications specific to total knee replacement are:

  • Infection
  • Fracture
  • Stiffness
  • Damage to nerves or blood vessels
  • Blood clots
  • Wound irritation or breakdown
  • Wear
  • Osteolysis
  • Damage to ligaments
  • Dislocation
  • Heterotopic ossification
  • Cosmetic appearance
  • Leg length inequality
  • Breakage of the implant
Your doctor can give you more information about these complications.

When can I go back to work?

Most patients return to sedentary jobs at 3-6 months after total knee replacement. It must be stressed to the patient before surgery that they may not return to manual labour after joint replacement. Any heavy manual job will result in premature loosening of the joint replacement and pain due to the increased stress on the joint replacement. Clerical or supervisory duties are suitable for a patient with a total knee replacement.

When will I be able to drive again?

When you feel comfortable using your leg fully. For most people, they feel comfortable driving after six weeks. Please also check with your insurance company as they may have specific rules on when you can drive after surgery.

When will I be able to resume sexual intercourse?

Sexual intercourse is allowed when the patient is comfortable but they have to be in charge of the positions used and any significant discomfort should result in the patient abstaining until they talk to their doctor.

In general, sexual intercourse occurs at around three to six weeks post operatively.

When will I be able to play sports?

Obviously, pounding sports are not good for joint replacement as they can wear the articulation. We recommend walking, bushwalking, swimming, stationary bike riding, doubles tennis and skiing on groomed runs if the patient is already a good skier. Jogging and heavy weights, although possible, will wear the joint prematurely.

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Hip & Knee Clinic
Retail 4/8 Australia Ave
Sydney Olympic Park
Homebush Bay NSW 2127
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