As people age, they may experience pain and increasingly poor function of one or both knees usually caused by osteoarthritis. If the knee pain and range of motion have not been improved after several trials of non-invasive treatments, your doctor may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon for evaluation.
Knee replacement surgery is performed under general anesthesia. During the procedure, the bony surfaces of the knee joint are exposed, the damaged areas removed and the remaining bone is shaped to receive a cap of metal or plastic to recreate the normal knee surfaces.
After surgery, you will remain in the hospital for a few days for observation and launch of the rehabilitation process to improve knee function. In those first few days, you will be standing and moving the joint with the aid of assistive devices like parallel bars and walkers. Upon discharge, you will continue exercises to gradually strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee assisted by a walker, crutches or a cane until you can comfortably bear weight and walk on your own. The rehabilitation period generally lasts for six to eight weeks.
New techniques in knee replacement surgery are now being used more frequently. Minimally invasive surgery, which allows for smaller incisions into the knee, can reduce the rehabilitation period and speed up the return to pain-free knee function.