Osteoarthritis may cause pain and reduced function of one or both knees. This becomes more common as people age. If the knee pain and range of motion do not improve after trying non-invasive treatments, your doctor may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon. You and your surgeon may discuss knee replacement surgery.
An orthopedic surgeon performs knee replacement surgery under general anesthesia. During the procedure, your surgeon will:
- Expose the bony surfaces of the knee joint
- Remove the damaged areas of the knee
- Reshape the remaining bone
- Place a cap of metal or plastic on the bone to recreate the normal knee surfaces
After surgery, you will remain in the hospital for a few days. During this time, your medical providers will observe your healing and start your rehabilitation process. In those first few days, you will be standing and moving the joint with the aid of devices like parallel bars and walkers.
After discharge, you will continue exercises to gradually strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee assisted by a walker, crutches, or a cane. Eventually, you will be able to comfortably bear weight and walk on your own. The rehabilitation period generally lasts for six to eight weeks.
Minimally invasive surgery, which allows for smaller incisions into the knee, can reduce your rehabilitation period and speed up the return to pain-free knee function.