According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, 90 percent of people who have a knee replacement have a lot less pain. Most of these people are able to perform daily activities and stay active. In many cases, they’re able to resume activities like golf and walking that their arthritic pain made them give up years ago.
A total knee replacement (TKR) is also known as a total knee arthroplasty (TKA). It relies on a mechanical implant to replace your actual knee.
The device usually lasts well over a decade. The procedure is being used more and more for younger people with osteoarthritis (OA) and other degenerative knee conditions. About 85 percent of artificial knees still work after 20 years. Their endurance is one reason that this procedure is so popular.
Most people who undergo a knee replacement are between the ages of 50 and 80. The average age is about 70. About 60 percent of the recipients are women. The procedure has a high success rate and is considered relatively safe and effective.
Safety and Complications
The safety of TKRs is well documented. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, “Serious complications, such as knee joint infection, occur in fewer than 2 percent of patients.” Blood clots can be a risk, as they are with all orthopedic procedures, but the risk is low. Using a blood thinner or other common preventative measures can help decrease the risk of a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism is the worst potential complication of a blood clot.
One study found that only 1.2 percent of people getting a TKR were hospitalized for blood clots within 90 days of surgery. Men over the age of 70 have the highest risk of blood clots. Cases of osteolysis — when plastic or metal fragments are released from the knee implant into the body and cause inflammation — are also uncommon.
Your implant won’t last forever. Over time, the metal and plastic parts wear out. People who are overweight or take part in high impact activities are more likely to experience problems with the mechanical knee implant.
Knee implants can come loose in rare cases. This is most likely to happen at the start of rehabilitation, typically a few days after surgery. It’s also rare for the device to malfunction. This is usually caused by a traumatic injury.
People often experience pain and require a revision surgery when an implant fails or osteolysis occurs. About 10 percent of patients require a revision within 10 years. This involves the replacement of worn components with new prosthetics.
Stiffness following the operation is not uncommon. This is one of the reasons that postoperative physical therapy is so important. Approximately 1% of TKRs need revision because of arthrofibrosis, a condition in which scar tissue forms and limits motion of the knee joint.
A successful TKR or partial knee replacement (PKR) typically leads to a higher quality of life, less pain, and better mobility. One study that examined 181 patients found that pain scores decreased significantly after surgery. The people in the study who had undergone a TKR also had improved range of motion of their knees.
Another 2011 study conducted at the University of Bremen in Germany found that those who undergo a TKR for OA are able to be much more physically active within a year of surgery. The study’s authors noted that a TKR “offers profound improvements of physical activity for the majority of patients.”
Spend some time reading through this guide if you’re considering a knee replacement. You should also check manufacturers’ websites and listen to the testimonials of others who have received knee replacements. It could help you have a smooth experience with knee replacement.