knee replacement

Don’t fear knee replacement, says surgeon Dr. Stephen Duncan

Dr. Stephen Duncan

Dr. Stephen Duncan

Written by Dr. Stephen Duncan, an orthopaedic surgeon at UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine.

From simple wear and tear to an old high school sports injury, there are many reasons why you might develop debilitating knee arthritis that affects your daily life.

Over time, this arthritis causes the cartilage – protective cushion between the bones in your knee – to wear out. Unfortunately, once the knee cartilage has worn out, there are not great regenerative treatment options to help restore it.

At this point, you might be offered a knee replacement.

Fear of replacement

Once the word “replacement” is said, some patients fear the worst. And this fear prevents many individuals from going through with the surgery.

Although it takes about a year to fully recover from knee replacement, the truth is that the surgery can help you get back to enjoying the activities you love.

One common misconception is that knee replacement is only for older patients. That’s not the case. There isn’t a minimum age for knee replacement, and younger and older patients alike can undergo the surgery.

Surgery specifics

Another misconception about knee replacement is that we remove a large portion of the thigh bone (femur) or shin bone (tibia). Actually, we only remove about 5-9 millimeters of bone, which is about the size of a pen or pencil.

It’s almost better to think of knee replacement as a “recapping” or “resurfacing” procedure. We remove the worn-out portion of the cartilage and place caps of metal on the ends of the femur and the tibia.

This provides a strong surface to then place a plastic or polyethylene spacer in between these two surfaces. The replacement is often held to your bone with cement, which helps keep it in place.

Partial replacement

Another fear about replacement surgery is that it won’t last for very long.

Although early iterations of this surgery typically lasted around 10-15 years, the current implants are designed to last twice as long – between 20-30 years.

That means instead of having to wait until a patient is older, we can offer knee replacement to younger patients to help improve their quality of life earlier in life.

For some individuals, a partial knee replacement may be an option. This entails only recapping one part of the knee. If only one part is worn out, it doesn’t make sense to replace the entire knee, and a partial replacement might be a better option. Today, we’re doing more and more partial knee replacements to help improve patients’ pain and function.

Recovery

Regardless of the surgery, it does take about one year to fully recover and get back to trusting your knee to do activities such as hiking, jogging or tennis.

The good news is that you should be able to return to simple activities like shopping within four to six weeks after the procedure.

How we can help

The team at UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine offers a comprehensive knee replacement program, including advanced partial knee replacement techniques.

This year, the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals Rankings designated our program as High Performing in Knee Replacement. Learn more about our program and what you can expect during the knee replacement process.


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