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Total Knee Replacement Surgery: What to Expect

Total knee replacement surgery can provide positive outcomes when knee pain and loss of mobility have eroded your quality of life and are limiting your daily low-impact activities.

The procedure relieves pain and restores function lost from multiple damaged or diseased knee joint compartments. The decision to pursue total knee replacement surgery should be made in consultation with your orthopedic specialist. Together, you can review and evaluate your options, including a realistic view of goals and expectations.

Knee replacement surgery does not restore the ability to participate in high-impact activities; however, it can enable you to resume low-impact activities for many years. Most knee replacement surgery patients experience a major change in pain reduction and a substantial increase in mobility.

If a total knee replacement surgery is right for you, it’s important to fully understand the procedure, including how to prepare, and what to expect before, during, and after surgery.

Preparing for Total Knee Replacement Surgery

Successful preparation for total knee replacement surgery ensures that you are physically and mentally ready for rehab and recovery. Planning for an extended period of limited mobility takes time, attention, and consideration of your basic daily needs and how they can be easily reached.

Stock up on essentials and take stock of your activities and surroundings. Create a list of the basic tasks you perform daily and, ideally, make arrangements to avoid stairs during the first few weeks of your recovery. Prep your home by removing tripping hazards and ensuring wide pathways that enable daily movement. Obtain necessary supplies that reduce the need for trips to the store and don’t hesitate to ask for help! Your mobility will improve each week, but having assistance when you need it reduces the risk of a fall, the strain on your body, and saves your energy for essential physical therapy.

During Surgery

Total knee replacement surgery involves four key elements. First, the damaged cartilage and bone are removed, and the tibia and femur bones are prepared to receive the implant. Next, the metal knee joint implants are positioned and fit to the bone. The patella (kneecap) is then resurfaced as needed. Finally, a spacer is inserted between the metal components to restore knee alignment and function.

After Surgery: Your Recovery and Rehab Plan

Total knee replacement generally has a three-to-six-month recovery period. Individual timelines are determined by patient health, pre-surgery activity levels, and other patient circumstances. A positive attitude is a tremendous tool in your recovery and rehab plan. Rehab plays an essential role in restoring joint mobility and your successful outcome can be directly influenced by your commitment to your recovery plan through to its full completion.

Recovery milestones are typically broken into two key periods: short-term and long-term recovery. Short-term recovery is achieved when the patient can walk with minimal or no aid when you no longer require prescription pain medication and can maintain sustained short-distance movement without a break.

Long-term recovery is measured by improvements in strength, stability, range of motion, and pain levels compared to pre-surgery levels. This level of recovery includes full surgical site and soft tissue healing as well as the resumption of low-impact activities with little or no pain. Short-term recovery is often achieved in 12 weeks whereas long-term recovery is often achieved in three to six months.

Physical therapy is an essential part of total knee replacement surgery recovery, and it begins right away! Your surgeon will want you moving as soon as a few hours following surgery, and your physical therapy plan will progress with you through your short-term and long-term recovery phases. With good preparation, a positive attitude, and a full commitment to your rehab plan, many patients achieve very good outcomes from a total knee replacement.

Dr. Michael Schuck, Dr. Ronald Hollis, Dr. Derek B. Purcell, Dr. Byron Ellis and the CCOE team can help you determine if total knee replacement is right for you and guide you through each step of your recovery journey. Contact us today to learn if total knee replacement surgery is the right option for your knee pain.

Anterior Approach/Total Joint Reconstruction

Total joint reconstruction and total joint replacement are surgeries that can help patients to regain their range of motion, minimize or eliminate pain and take back their quality of life.

For the half a million or more people each year that pursue joint replacement or joint reconstruction for the hip, it’s typically after many months or years of discomfort or pain that has become worse over time. And, because of the significant nature of these procedures, most have followed an orthopedic surgeons’ recommendation to exhausting non-surgical options first.

But if it’s time to explore surgery, the procedure that is right for each patient depends on the nature of the joint damage, overall health, and other personal factors that vary by patient. Let’s take a look at several of the most common:

Hip Resurfacing

Hip resurfacing involves minimal removal of a patient’s femur bone, typically reshaping the ball of the femur to fit into a new prosthetic socket that sits inside the pelvis. Because this procedure saves more natural bone tissue and uses a smaller implant, recovery can be faster than other joint reconstruction or replacement procedures.

Patients who are hoping to return to high-impact exercises, such as running, often consider this procedure. Recovery times average around six weeks to return to normal activities.

Joint Reconstruction for the Hip: Hip Labral Reconstruction

The hip labrum is a tendon that attaches to the hip socket and can be torn or damaged. In many cases, an orthopedic surgeon can repair and reattach the labral tissue. But when there is not enough healthy tissue to make the repair, surgeons can perform hip labral reconstruction using a tissue graft to reconstruct the damaged part of the labrum.

There is usually some remaining healthy tissue, and when that is the case, the reconstruction can be partial. In either case, hip labral reconstruction can be done through an arthroscopic procedure that involves smaller incisions and less recovery time, or an open surgery that requires a larger incision and more manipulation of the joint.  Many patients who have arthroscopic surgery are able to walk on their own two to three weeks after surgery, while open surgery patients may need 6 weeks or more to walk unassisted. Full recovery is aided by physical therapy and exercise and often takes about 6 months.

Total Hip Replacement

Total hip replacement (known in the medical community as hip arthroplasty) typically has very good outcomes with regard to reducing pain and allowing patients to live an active life. In fact, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, a total hip replacement is “one of the most successful procedures in all of medicine.”

In this procedure, damaged cartilage and bone are replaced with a prosthetic ball and socket. It involves the removal of a section of the femur, called the femoral head, and placing a new prosthetic socket into the pelvis.

Total hip replacements are done both as in-patient and outpatient procedures, depending on a number of individual factors. Either way, physical therapy is crucial to recovery and in most cases, orthopedic surgeons encourage patients to get moving soon after surgery. Many patients are on their feet and resuming most light activities in 3-6 weeks.

The anterior approach to hip replacement

Traditional total hip replacement is done by accessing the joint through a large incision in the side or back of the hip. The anterior approach is done from the front of the hip and often involves a smaller incision and less trauma to muscles, less pain after the procedure, and a faster recovery. It also tends to reduce the chance of hip dislocation. Without cutting the muscles near the hip joint, there is less tissue to heal and recoveries are often shorter – as little as two weeks.

If you’re struggling with hip pain and are ready to explore surgical options, it’s important to see a qualified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the treatment of the hip.  The award-winning team at Colorado Center for Orthopedic Excellence treats a wide variety of hip conditions. Schedule an appointment at one of our three convenient locations.