Total Knee Replacement Surgery

Considering Surgery:  What is Total Knee Replacement?

The decision to undergo a knee replacement requires serious consideration. Whether you’re researching treatment options or your doctor has already recommended surgery, it’s important to weigh the risks and benefits. Understanding what happens during a total knee replacement (TKR) is a good place to start.  Watch this video and learn about the procedure.  View Transcript

What is Total Knee Replacement?

Voice of:  Dr. Thomas Vail, Professor and Chairman of Orthopedic Surgery, University of San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center

A healthy knee lets you move your lower leg forward and backwards and it swivels slightly.  Ligaments and cartilage provide support for the knee.  A knee with osteoarthritis or other damage may have significantly less cartilage.  As bone-on-bone contact occurs, pain and problems ensue. 

An orthopedic surgeon can evaluate your eligibility for knee replacement surgery, a common procedure that can help to relive chronic knee pain.  During total knee replacement surgery a surgeon will remove your damaged knee cartilage and replace it with a mechanical device.  Prior to the knee surgery, your surgeon will pick the implant that best fits your needs and anatomy. 

Implants include a number of components.  Artificial knee components are constructed from metal, as well as medical grade plastic called polyethylene.  Typically a metal cap called a femoral component covers the end of the femur bone and a second metal cap called a tibial component covers the top of the tibia.  The two metallic surfaces are separated by a polyethylene insert.  During a procedure the femoral component is put into place and a plastic spacer and tibial component is inserted on the tibial surface.  The damaged cartilage is removed from the patella and a patellar component is installed over the existing patellar bone.  If only part of your knee is damaged, your surgeon may recommend that you have a partial knee replacement, which replaces only a part of your knee. 

After knee surgery a patient should have greater flexion of the knee and overall greater range of motion.  With rehabilitation, patients recover healthy movement of their knees and can engage in many of the activities they once enjoyed.

What is Knee Replacement?

Knee replacement surgery can provide long-term knee pain relief to many osteoarthritis patients.

Double Knee Replacement

Osteoarthritis can impact multiple joints and some patients elect to have both knees replaced at once.

Alternatives to Knee Replacement Surgery

Depending on the current stage of your knees, you may want to pursue other options before undergoing surgery.

Considering Knee Replacement Surgery

Clinical Outcomes: What Are the Results?

Knee replacement surgery is a proven treatment option, and is very effective in relieving sever knee pain.

Surgical Variations

Knee replacement isn't one-size-fits-all: there are different types, including: total, partial, minimally invasive, and traditional procedures.

Questions to Ask Your Surgeon

It's essential to be prepared for your knee replacement evaluation, so that you can make the most of your time with the surgeon.

Causes of Severe Knee Pain

Not all knee pain is the same. Understanding the cause of your knee pain will help you and your doctor determine the best treatment.

Evaluate Your Pain

Use this questionnaire to evaluate your knee pain and function before your appointment. Discuss the results with your doctor.

Am I a Candidate?

Although highly effective, knee replacement surgery is a serious undertaking. Before committing, you should be sure that you are a good candidate.

Should I Delay Surgery?

Many patients put off a TKR until pain and mobility problems become unbearable. Waiting too long can worsen your condition.

Answers to Common Questions

If you are considering knee surgery, you probably have many questions about what to expect before and after surgery.


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