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Knee Replacement

Introduction

Knee replacement surgery, also known as knee arthroplasty, can help relieve pain and restore function in severely diseased knee joints.  During knee replacement, a surgeon cuts away damaged bone and cartilage from the thighbone, shinbone and kneecap and replaces it with an artificial joint made of metal alloys, high-grade plastics and polymers.

Anatomy

The femur and the tibia meet together to form a hinge joint.  The joint is protected in front by the patella, also known as the kneecap.  The knee joint is cushioned by cartilage that covers the ends of the tibia and femur, as well as the underside of the patella.  Knee replacement surgery replaces the damaged knee joint with an artificial prosthesis.

Causes

Although there are several conditions which may lead to the need for knee replacement, arthritis is the most common reason.  A number of other factors contribute to joint disease including genetics, developmental abnormalities, repetitive injuries and obesity.  The knee joint is the largest and most complex, and therefore the most stressed joint in the body. 

Symptoms

A person would be considered a candidate for total knee replacement if they live with daily pain, the pain is severe enough to restrict work, there is significant stiffness, instability, or deformity that hinders normal function of the knee, or there is damage from arthritis.

Diagnosis

After understanding the symptoms, limitations and progression of the knee problem, the doctor will perform a variety of tests that may include measuring the knee’s range of motion, analyzing muscle strength and evaluating the legs for variances, such as bow-legs or knock-knees. Additionally, an x-ray of the knee will be done to assess the damage. From the medical history, physical examination and test results, the doctor will determine if total knee replacement is necessary.

Treatment

Proper rehabilitation is essential to recovery after a total knee replacement.  Your physical therapist will help you regain much of your knee range of motion as quickly as possible, as well as teaching you strengthening exercises to improve muscle weakness of the thigh and lower leg.  Once you are able to put your full weight on your knee, your therapist will also add agility exercises that will challenge your balance and knee control.

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