An artificial knee, often referred to as a total knee replacement, is a structure made of metal and a special type of plastic that replaces a knee that has usually been severely damaged by arthritis.

An orthopedic surgeon may recommend a total knee replacement if your knee joint is badly damaged from arthritis and the pain is seriously affecting your daily life.

In a healthy knee joint, the cartilage that lines the ends of the bones protects the bones from rubbing together and allows them to move freely against one another.

Arthritis affects this cartilage, and over time it can become worn away, allowing the bones to rub against one another. This often results in pain, swelling, and stiffness.

During knee replacement surgery, the damaged cartilage and a small amount of underlying bone is removed and replaced with metal and a special type of plastic. The plastic acts to replace the function of the cartilage and allow the joint to move freely.

Having a total knee replacement provides significant pain relief for more than 90 percent of people who have the surgery.

It can take some time to get used to the new knee, so it’s important to understand what is normal during recovery and how having an artificial knee can affect your day-to-day life after surgery.

Your new knee doesn’t come with an owner’s manual, but recognizing potential issues and preparing for them can help maximize your quality of life after surgery.

It’s not unusual for your artificial knee to make some popping, clicking, or clunking sounds, particularly when you bend and extend it. This is most often normal, so you shouldn’t be alarmed.

Several factors can affect the likelihood of these noises or sensations after surgery, including the specific artificial knee (prosthesis) used.

If you’re concerned about the sounds the device is making, check with your doctor.

After knee replacement, it’s common to experience new sensations and feelings around your knee. You may have skin numbness on the outer part of your knee and have a sensation of “pins and needles” around the incision.

In some cases, bumps may also appear on the skin surrounding the incision. This is common and most of the time doesn’t indicate a problem.

If you’re concerned about any new sensations, don’t hesitate to talk to your healthcare team for more information.

It’s normal to experience some swelling and warmth in your new knee. Some describe this as a feeling of “hotness.” This usually subsides over a period of several months.

Some people report feeling mild warmth years later, particularly after they exercise. Icing may help reduce this sensation.

Many people experience soreness and weakness in their leg following surgery. Remember, your muscles and joints need time to strengthen!

A 2018 study reported that the quadriceps and hamstring muscles may not regain their full strength with usual rehabilitation exercises, so talk to your physical therapist about ways to strengthen these muscles.

Sticking with an exercise program can make your new joint as strong as that of an adult of the same age with their original knee.

Some bruising after surgery is normal. It normally disappears within a couple of weeks.

Your surgeon may prescribe a blood thinner after surgery to prevent blood clots in the lower leg. These medications can increase the risk of bruising and bleeding.

Monitor any persistent bruising and talk to your doctor if it doesn’t go away.

Learn more about what to expect from bruising, pain, and swelling after a total knee replacement here.

Mild to moderate stiffness isn’t unusual after knee replacement surgery. Keeping active and closely following your physical therapist’s recommendations will help you achieve the best possible result following your operation.

If you experience extreme or worsening stiffness and soreness that significantly limits the motion in your knee, you should let your doctor know.

People have a higher chance of weight gain after knee replacement surgery. According to a 2013 review, 30 percent of people gained 5 percent or more of their body weight 5 years after knee replacement surgery.

You can minimize this risk by staying active and adhering to a healthy diet. Some sports and activities are better than others following total knee replacement. Read more here.

It’s important to try to avoid putting on weight after joint replacement surgery as the extra pounds place unnecessary strain on your new knee.

Research from 2019 showed that approximately 82 percent of total knee replacements were still functioning and doing well at 25 years.

If you’re concerned about the way your knee is functioning, speak to your surgeon. It’s critical to the health and longevity of your knee replacement.

Getting the answers to your questions will increase your comfort level and your overall satisfaction.