Knee Joint Replacement

An Overview

Knee joint replacement is surgery to replace a knee joint with an artificial joint. The artificial joint is called a prosthesis.

Knee joint replacement may be recommended for:

  • Severe arthritis (osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis) of the knee that has not gotten better with medicine, injections, and physical therapy after 6 months or more of treatment. Your doctor may recommend knee replacement for these problems:
    • Inability to sleep through the night because of knee pain
    • Knee pain that has not improved with other treatment
    • Knee pain that limits or keeps you from being able to do your normal activities, especially your daily activities such as bathing, preparing meals, household chores, and other things.
  • Some tumors that affect the knee

Even when a knee replacement is needed, some medical problems may lead your doctor to recommend that you not have it done. Some of these problems are:

  • A knee infection
  • Morbid obesity (weighing over 300 pounds)
  • Very weak quadriceps, the muscles in the front of your thigh. Weak quadriceps could make it very hard for you to walk and use your knee.
  • Unhealthy skin around your knee
  • Severe mental dysfunction
  • Poor blood flow in the leg from peripheral vascular disease. This could keep the incision from healing.
  • A terminal disease, such as cancer, that has spread

The results of a total knee replacement are often excellent. The operation relieves pain for most people, and most people do not need help walking after they fully recover. Most artificial knee joints last 10 to 15 years. Some last as long as 20 years before they loosen and need to be replaced again.