Knee replacement surgery usually comes down to a personal decision because the most important input comes from you. Sometimes, a knee with a “bad” X-ray feels okay, while a knee with an “okay” X-ray causes pain with every step. You’re the only one who really knows what day-to-day life is like with your knees.
But while it’s your decision, you don’t have to make it alone. Your surgeon can ease your burden by providing the answers and information you need to choose the best path for you.
Here you’ll learn about different types of knee replacement surgery, along with what recovery will be like for each type. We’ll also cover a few treatment options available as an alternative to knee surgery.
What is a knee replacement surgery?
When knee cartilage – the smooth rubbery surface that covers and cushions your knee joints – becomes damaged from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or injury-related arthritis, your knee becomes stiff and painful to move. When this happens, replacing your knee with an artificial joint can correct alignment issues, reduce stiffness and ease your pain. During knee replacement surgery, the surgeon will resurface the damaged parts of the joint to fit perfectly with a metal component prosthetic (or prostheses) selected to best suit each patient.
What are my alternatives to knee replacement surgery?
Knee replacement surgery isn’t always the best option for treating knee pain or problems with mobility. In some cases, a doctor might recommend:
- Limiting your activities, particularly those that cause knee pain
- Physical therapy
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Assistive devices like a cane or rollator (walker)
- Chondroitin sulfate
- Cortisone injections in the hip (including intra-articular, ultrasound-guided injections)
- Weight loss program
Types of knee replacement surgeries
The type of knee replacement that offers the best results will depend on your situation. Types of knee replacement surgeries include:
- Partial knee replacement
- Total knee replacement
- Revision (or complex) knee replacement
- Patellofemoral (kneecap) replacement
Partial knee replacement
A partial knee replacement is also called partial knee resurfacing, or a unicompartmental knee replacement. It’s said to feel more natural than a total knee replacement. There are certain criteria, however, that determine whether this procedure is a better option than a total knee replacement. A partial knee replacement is usually recommended over total knee replacement when:
- Arthritic damage is limited to one compartment of the knee
- The patient has healthy ligaments and an intact ACL
- There is cartilage damage with minimal knee alignment problems
Other factors like age, range of motion, bone structure and exercise frequency may be considered to limit the possibility of needing total or revision knee replacement in the future. Partial knee replacements can last as long as total knee replacements.
Partial knee replacement recovery: what to expect
Due to the smaller incision, the recovery timeline for a partial knee replacement is shorter than a total knee replacement. Most patients are able to go home the same day but some will spend one night in the hospital. Soon after surgery, patients will begin to perform range of motion exercises and will be asked bear weight on the replaced joint.
Most patients can walk without an assistive device within a month after surgery. Expect it to take about six weeks to feel like your knee is recovered to the point where you can resume normal activities.
Total knee replacement
Also known as total knee arthroplasty, a total knee replacement removes damaged parts of the knee and resurfaces the bone with a prostheses. The knee is then repositioned into proper alignment, replicating the original function and restoring a near-normal range of motion. Total knee replacement is typically recommended after all other options have been either exhausted or ruled out. The most common reasons for having total knee replacement surgery are:
- Severe pain or stiffness limits everyday activities
- Knee pain interferes with sleep
Total knee replacement recovery: what to expect
Most patients will be ready to go home either same day or within two days following a total knee replacement, pending medical clearance. Physical therapy will start as soon as possible. At six weeks, daytime pain usually decreases significantly, but at nights you will likely still be a little sore. Most patients can expect their new knee to feel fully functional to the point where they can resume normal activities within three to six months.
Revision knee replacement
Over time, the original components from a total or partial knee replacement surgery break down from normal wear and tear. This can cause new pain in the joint. Revision knee replacement swaps out some or all of the original components with new ones.
Revision knee replacement recovery: what to expect
Because revision knee replacement surgeries vary based on each patient’s needs, recovery times also vary. Your surgeon will be able to provide a more accurate timeline based on how many of the original components need to be replaced and how much damage has occurred since your last surgery.
Patellofemoral replacement surgery (kneecap)
Patellofemoral joint arthroplasty surgery replaces the under-surface area of the kneecap and the groove called the trochlea. This surgery is most effective when arthritis only affects the under-surface of the kneecap. When the arthritis has already spread to other parts of the knee or the spread of arthritis is likely, doctors will typically recommend total knee replacement.
Patellofemoral replacement surgery recovery: what to expect
When patellofemoral replacement surgery is recommended, patients can expect a quicker recovery time compared to total knee replacement. Patients will be able to bear weight on the knee and walk with an assistive device right after surgery. Physical therapy is needed to restore muscle strength, and usually starts within a week of surgery.
Most patients can return to work anywhere from two to six weeks depending on the nature of the job. Expect your knee to feel fully recovered within 6-12 months however you may be able to resume most normal activities before then. Your physical therapist will let you know when it’s safe to return to the activities you enjoy.
Transform knee pain from everyday reality to distant memory
Most people living with knee pain don’t have to accept it as “part of life” or “part of aging.” If you’d like to learn more about what you can do about it, schedule an appointment online or call 952-831-8742.
What makes TRIA a top destination for knee replacement surgery?
You won’t be pushed toward surgery. You’ll get an accurate diagnosis and expert answers to help you decide what’s best for you. In many cases, we recommend treatment options other than surgery.
Hospital, hotel or at home – choose your recovery option. Most patients choose to go straight home after surgery if they meet the criteria and their insurance covers it. Others opt for the Hotel Recovery Program and receive care in an environment that’s quieter and more comforting than a traditional hospital room. There’s no out-of-pocket cost with hotel recovery and it’s less expensive than a hospital stay.
Confidence. Choose from surgeons considered among the best not just in Minnesota, but the entire Midwest. One year after surgery, 97% of our patients reported walking downstairs with little to no difficulty.
Ready to explore your options? We’re here to answer all of your questions.
Looking for a second opinion?
Whether you want a second opinion from someone else or you want us to provide one, the important thing is to get the answers and information you need to make the best decision for you. In many cases, insurance will cover the second opinion (check with your provider to be sure).
To schedule a second opinion for knee replacement surgery, call 952-831-8742.