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Research Joint Replacement / Knee Pain
Questions & Answers

What is arthritis?

There are more than 100 different kinds of arthritic conditions that can affect the human body. Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage to wear away, eventually resulting in painful bone-on-bone contact.

Why does my knee or hip hurt?

The bones in a joint are covered with a tough, lubricating tissue called cartilage to help provide smooth, pain-free motion to the joint. As the layer of cartilage wears away, bone begins to rub against bone, causing the irritation, swelling, stiffness, and discomfort commonly associated with arthritis.

What is total knee replacement?

Total knee replacement replaces damaged cartilage and bone with an artificial surface. The replacement implants include a metal alloy on the end of the femur (thighbone) and polyethylene (plastic) on the tibia (shinbone) and patella (kneecap). The implants create a new, smoothly functioning joint that prevents painful bone-on-bone contact.

What is a partial knee replacement?

In some patients, only one part of the knee is damaged, while the remaining parts are completely healthy. In these cases, it is possible to replace only the damaged part of the knee with a metal and plastic implant. This can usually be done through a smaller incision and you may recover more quickly. Your surgeon will determine if this is the best option for you.

How long does the typical knee or hip implant last?

All implants have a limited life expectancy depending on an individual’s age, weight, activity level, and medical condition(s). A total joint implant’s longevity will vary in every patient. It is important to remember that an implant is a medical device that is subject to wear, which may lead to mechanical failure. While following all of your surgeon’s recommendations after surgery may enhance longevity, there is no guarantee that your particular implant will last for any specific length of time.

Do implants fail, and can they be replaced?

Since implants are mechanical devices, they are subject to conditions that can lead to mechanical failure. The most common reason for implant failure in knee and hip replacements is implant loosening or implant wear that leads to loosening. Implant wear particles can react with the bone, causing thinning of the bone that can lead to implant loosening. In most cases, failed implants can be revised successfully to provide good results. However, revised components have a slightly lower success rate.

When should I have joint replacement surgery?

Your surgeon will evaluate your health history, perform a physical examination, and take X-rays to decide if you are a candidate for this surgery. You must then decide if your discomfort, pain or stiffness, and overall loss of quality of life justify undergoing surgery. Generally, there is no harm in waiting to have surgery if conservative, non-surgical treatments are effective.

What Should I Ask My Orthopedic Surgeon Before Knee Replacement Surgery?

If your doctor recommends joint replacement, it is normal to have many questions about the procedure. Below are some of the questions you may want to discuss with your orthopedic surgeon.

  1. What are the risks and potential complications of knee replacement?
  2. How long will the procedure take?
  3. How long will I be in the hospital?
  4. When will I be able to resume normal activities?
  5. How much pain relief or increased mobility can I expect?
  6. Which implant have you chosen for my joint replacement?
  7. What are the clinical results of the implant system you have chosen?
  8. What, in your opinion, makes this implant the very best available implant for my condition?

How long and where will my incision be?

Traditional total knee replacements require an incision between six and eight inches long. Minimally invasive total knee replacement is designed to shorten the traditional incision, lessen trauma to soft tissues, and reduce recovery time. The scar will be on the side of your knee, unless you have previous scars, in which case your surgeon may use an existing scar. It is common for patients to notice some numbness around their scar.
Traditional total hip replacements require an incision between six and eight inches long. Minimally invasive total hip replacement is designed to shorten the traditional incision, lessen trauma to soft tissues, and reduce recovery time. The scar will be straight down the side of your hip, unless you have previous scars, in which case your surgeon may use an existing scar. It is common for patients to notice some numbness around their scar.

Will I notice anything different about my new knee or hip?

Yes, you may have some numbness on the outside of the scar. The area around the scar may feel warm. In knee patients, kneeling may be uncomfortable for a year or more. You may also notice some clicking when you move your hip or knee as a result of the artificial surfaces coming together.

What is the best way to prepare for recovery?

Proper preparation and a great attitude are the best ways to accomplish a rapid recovery from joint replacement. With the help of a physical therapist or trainer, get yourself as physically fit as you can before surgery. Proper nutrition, weight loss (if overweight), and an optimal medical condition can help avoid complications. See your physician prior to surgery to ensure your blood pressure, heart, and lungs are in good shape. See a surgeon who specializes in joint surgery and go to a hospital that has a dedicated joint unit to provide you with excellent care. Be prepared to continue with your exercise program after surgery.

Will I need blood and can I donate my own blood?

Most patients do not require blood after surgery. It is possible that you may require blood, however. If you so desire, you can donate your own blood, use the blood bank, or have your relatives donate blood for you.

Where will I go after discharge from the hospital?

Most patients are able to go directly home after discharge. Some patients may transition to a sub-acute facility and stay there between three to seven days. Your surgeon and hospital staff will help you decide where to go after you are discharged and can make the appropriate arrangements.

Will I have any restrictions following this surgery?

Yes, you will be restricted from performing high-impact activities such as running, singles tennis, and basketball. You will also be restricted from performing contact sports and downhill skiing. Hip patients may be restricted from crossing their legs or bending their hips more than 90° for at least three months after surgery.

How long until I can walk and resume my normal activities?

Walking with support (cane, crutches, or walker) typically begins the day after surgery. Walking support may be continued for two to six weeks. The hospital can arrange for these devices as needed. If you have a walker, cane or crutches that you regularly use, please bring them to the hospital.
Most patients can climb stairs after three days and are discharged to home at that time. With less invasive surgical techniques, some patients can climb stairs sooner and be discharged to home after one or two days. Dancing, golfing, and other low-impact activities may be permissible between six to twelve weeks. Returning to your daily activities will depend somewhat on your individual circumstances. Consult with your surgeon or therapist for advice on acceptable activities.

How long will it be until I can drive a car?

The ability to drive depends on several factors, such as which leg had surgery and what type of transmission you have. If your left leg is your surgical leg and you have an automatic transmission, you could be driving as soon as two weeks after surgery. If your right leg is the surgical leg, or if you have a manual transmission, your driving could be restricted for as long as six weeks. You should not drive until cleared by your surgeon or therapist.

When will I be able to return to work?

Returning to work depends on your type of work. Office workers often return in two to three weeks, while patients with more strenuous jobs may require more time away from work. The timing of your return to work depends considerably upon your commitment to recovery.

Will I need help at home after surgery?

If you go directly home from the hospital you will probably need assistance with stairs, meal preparation, house cleaning, etc., during the first week or so, depending upon your progress.

Will I need physical therapy when I go home?

Yes, if transportation is available, you may go to an outpatient facility two to three times per week. If transportation is unavailable, your surgeon’s office or hospital staff can arrange for a home physical therapist to provide the initial physical therapy. The length of time required for therapy varies with each patient, but typically lasts two to eight weeks, depending upon progress.

What if I live alone?

Two options are available to you if you live alone. You may stay at a sub-acute facility following your hospital stay or you may go directly home. If you go home, you will need someone to be with you for at least a week.

How often will I need to be seen by my surgeon following this surgery?

Your first office visit after surgery usually occurs two to three weeks after discharge. You will most likely be seen for further follow-up as required by your orthopedic surgeon. You may need to see your orthopedic surgeon for a check-up every one to two years.

When can I have sexual intercourse?

The time to resume sexual intercourse should be discussed with your orthopedic surgeon. What physical and recreational activities may I participate in after my recovery? You are encouraged to participate in low-impact activities such as dancing, golfing, hiking, swimming, and gardening as your surgeon allows. Ask your surgeon about other acceptable activities.

Does joint replacement work?

After a total joint replacement surgery, many patients experience reduced pain, increased mobility, and improved quality of life. The performance and life span of an implant depends on many factors, including the patient's presurgical physical condition, anatomy, weight, activity, and willingness to follow surgeon's instructions before and after surgery. Joint surgery involves potential risks and requires recovery time. Individual results may vary and only an orthopedic surgeon can determine if surgery is right for you.

What are the possible complications of total joint replacement surgery?

While uncommon, complications can occur during and after surgery. Complications include, but are not limited to infection, blood clots, implant breakage, malalignment, and premature wear, any of which can require additional surgery. Infection and blood clots are two of the complications that concern surgeons the most. To avoid these complications, surgeons may take various measures, including prescribing antibiotics and blood thinners before and after surgery. Although implant surgery is extremely successful in most cases, some patients still experience pain and stiffness. Factors such as the patient's post-surgical activities and weight can affect longevity. Be sure to discuss these and other risks with your surgeon.

When should I have this type of surgery?

Your doctors will decide if you are a good candidate for this surgery. Their decision will be based on your medical history, exam and X-rays. Your doctors will ask you to decide if your discomfort, stiffness and disability justify undergoing surgery. There is no harm in waiting to have surgery if conservative, non-operative methods can adequately control your discomfort.

Am I too old for this surgery?

Age is generally not a problem if you are in reasonably good health and have the desire to continue living a productive, active life. You should see your personal physician for an opinion about your general health and readiness for surgery.

How long do total joint patients typically stay in the hospital?

In the past, a patient could typically expect to stay anywhere from 3-7 days, followed by six weeks or more of difficult therapy before returning to normal activities. With minimally-invasive surgery, some surgeons are finding that patients can be discharged in as few as one to two days, with significantly faster return to normal activities and less post-operative pain.

What kind of activities can patients expect to pursue following joint replacement?

That depends on various factors, including the type of surgery, your health, and your recovery. Typically, patients should be able to return to certain low-impact activities within weeks after surgery. Surgeons generally discourage patients from jarring, high-impact activities, such as running and strenuous sports.

This information was prepared in conjunction with a licensed physician and is presented as general information only. Biomet is a manufacturer of orthopedic implants and does not practice medicine. Only an orthopedic surgeon can determine what treatment is appropriate. Individual results of total joint replacement may vary. The life of any implant will depend on your weight, age, activity level, and other factors. For more information on risks, warnings, and possible adverse effects, see the Patient Risk Information section found within Always ask your doctor if you have any questions regarding your particular condition or treatment options.

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