There are times when the knee just isn’t moving the way it should. Days of pain and discomfort turn into weeks, months and years of immobility. This is when it’s time for a complete makeover and only a total knee replacement (TKR) can do the job. This surgical orthopedics procedure removes worn, damaged and diseased surfaces and replaces them with strong artificial materials for maximum joint function.
It’s all about the Knees
The knee joint is a hinge joint and is made up of the femur (thigh bone), tibia (leg bone) and the patella (knee cap). The surfaces of these bones work together to allow the leg to bend and straighten and it is the articular cartilage that allows the knee to perform its functions smoothly. The condition of this cartilage is important when determining if a patient is a good candidate for orthopedics surgery.
To allow the joint to comfortably maximize its function, two cartilage discs called menisci line the joint surfaces. Inside the joint is the medial meniscus, and outside is the lateral meniscus. These menisci multitask as shock absorbers, weight distributors and friction reducers.
Within the knee, there are two additional joints: the femorotibial joint and the patellofemoral joint. It is these two joints that are replaced in surgery. Four major ligaments, also known as the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments, assist with stability.
When is Total Knee Replacement Ideal?
Since the 1970s, total knee replacements have given millions of patients an unlimited pass with the activities of daily living – sitting, standing, climbing stairs and walking. In fact, if a patient leads a fairly active life, participating in sports such as hiking, swimming, cycling or golf, total knee replacement is ideal.
Total knee replacement was designed to treat partial to severe arthritis (inflammation and deterioration) within the joint. Whether it’s caused by repetitive injuries, a genetic predisposition to abnormal cartilage function or abnormalities during development, surgery is an option. If other medical treatments prove unsuccessful or severe deformity such as knock-knee or bow-legged has occurred, then a doctor may recommend replacement surgery. However, if the patient wants to pick up where they left off in tennis, football, jogging or skiing, a total knee replacement may not be the best option.
The Benefits of a Total Knee Replacement
With proper care individuals who have had a total knee replacement can expect many years of faithful function.
Types of Total Knee Replacements
Not all knee replacements are the same. In fact, there are six orthopedics options from which to choose:
- Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) retaining
- Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) substituting
- Rotating platform
Total Knee Replacement Materials
Technological advances in knee replacement have given patients long-lasting results, making it one of the most successful orthopedics surgeries for arthritic knees. Patients have the pick of the materials depending on the amount of arthritic bone loss and supportive ligament quality.
Typically, there are two elements – metal (cobalt, titanium or chrome) or polyethylene plastic. No matter the material, it is attached to the bone with acrylic cement or with a press-fit method. The latter option allows bone growth around the implant. If you are a good candidate for this type of surgery, your orthopedics surgeon can help you determine which material best suits your joint issues.
Things to Consider
If your physician has recommended a total knee replacement for your damaged knee, ask yourself these questions:
- Have I tried all of the non-invasive remedies?
- Is my injury preventing me from doing the things that I love and need to do each day?
- Can I take partial time off (up to six weeks) to begin walking comfortably?
If you have answered with a hearty “yes,” then maybe it’s time for your total knee replacement.
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