Knee Frequently Asked Questions

Knee FAQs

Why do I need a knee replacement?

You may need a knee replacement if you have been suffering with knee pain or you have reduced knee movement. Surgery is usually recommended if your joint is damaged or worn.

A worn or damaged knee joint causes knee pain during movement, stiffness even after relaxing, or instability of movement. It can affect your daily activities and often keeps you awake at night. The most common reason for knee replacement surgery is osteoarthritis, a breakdown of cartilage that provides the cushioning elements between the joints.

What are the different types of knee replacement?

Knee replacement surgery can be performed using cemented or uncemented parts. Cemented parts are secured with acrylic cement. Uncemented parts are rough surface materials that allow your bone to grow on to them so that the bone will then hold the replacement parts in place.

At your consultation appointment, your surgeon will discuss with you whether a cemented or uncemented knee replacement is best suited to your needs based on your symptoms and diagnosis.

What is knee replacement surgery?

Knee replacement surgery is usually carried out if you have arthritis that is badly affecting your knee or your knee has been injured. The cartilage which covers the bony surfaces of your knee joint can become worn away, and causes pain. Your knee may also be visibly swollen. 

Your GP is the first person to approach to talk about your knee pain. They will advise if they think a knee replacement is likely to be an option for you.

Knee replacement surgery normally involves a few days in hospital and a period of recovery at home, during which you may need physiotherapy and help around the house. Many people recover quickly from this knee operation and find they are once again able to do the things they enjoy. 

How long will I have to wait for a knee replacement operation?

Once your consultant has recommended a knee replacement, you will have a routine appointment with a pre-admission nurse to run through pre-operative assessments.

Your knee replacement operation can be scheduled within two weeks of your consultation appointment if this surgery is recommended. You can choose a convenient date for your operation.

What does knee replacement surgery involve?

Knee replacement surgery, also known as arthroplasty, is an operation to replace a diseased, damaged or worn knee with an artificial joint. Depending on your knee’s condition this may involve total knee replacement or a partial knee replacement. Knee replacement surgery is normally performed under general anaesthetic. The worn joints are replaced with metal and plastic parts that have been measured to fit.

How long do I need to stay in hospital?

If you are having a total knee replacement you may stay in hospital for up to three days, depending on your recovery programme. You may be put on an enhanced recovery programme if you’re fit and healthy and this often reduces the length of time you stay in hospital. Your consultant will discuss this with you.

How long will I need off work?

The amount of time you need off work depends on the nature of your job and your individual circumstances as everybody recovers differently. Typically, you can return back to light work or office duties within six weeks of your knee replacement surgery.

How long will I need crutches for?

You will normally need crutches or a walking frame for around six weeks following your knee replacement surgery. You should then be able to resume normal leisure activities. However, it may take up to three monthsfor the pain and swelling to settle down completely and it can take up to a year for any leg swelling to fully disappear.

What is the recovery time for knee replacement surgery?

Recovery times following knee replacement surgery vary from individual to individual as their situations differ. Typically, patients return to normal activities within three to six months of their knee replacement surgery.

Short-term recovery involves walking with minimal or no aids and giving up major pain relievers for simple over-the-counter medications. This is generally achieved within ten to twelve weeks.

Long-term recovery involves the complete healing of surgical wounds and internal soft tissues. There are many factors that can contribute to recovery time, but typically patients can return to normal life activities within three to six months.

How soon can I drive?

You may be able to drive within four to six weeks following your knee replacement surgery. First you will need to check, with your physiotherapist or consultant, if it is safe for you to drive.

What will happen during my knee replacement?

You will be given a general anaesthetic to relax your muscles and enable you to temporarily sleep, and not feel pain.  A small incision will be made to enable your surgeon to move the patella and gain access to your joints so that they can precisely measure and resurface them using special instruments. Any damaged bone will be removed and replaced with artificial components. You will be in theatre for approximately one to three hours. You will then be moved to the recovery area.

What are the potential complications of knee replacement surgery?

As with any surgery, there are potential risks and complications that could arise. These include: pain and bleeding following surgery, infection in your surgical wound, blood clots, and loosening of your joint. Your consultant will discuss all potential risks with you to ensure that you are fully informed before consenting to surgery.

When does physiotherapy start?

Physiotherapy normally begins the day after your knee replacement operation. During your stay in hospital, a physiotherapist will teach you exercises to help strengthen your knee. It's important to follow your physiotherapist's advice to avoid complications or dislocation of your new joint. It's normal to experience initial discomfort while walking and exercising, and your legs and feet may be swollen at first.

How long will my new knee last?

For the majority of patients, a new knee jointshould last about twenty years, and it may well last longer. If you have had a partial knee replacement you are more likely to need a repeat operation. About one person in ten needs further knee surgery after ten years.

What are the benefits of knee replacement surgery?

The main benefits of a successful knee replacement operation include: improved mobility, reduction or freedom from pain, and improved quality of life as normal everyday activities become easier.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Total knee replacement surgery is usually the last option to take. Before considering knee replacement surgery, there are a number of alternatives which can be discussed with your consultant. These include: exercise, use of walking aids, and pain medications to help ease stiffness and improve mobility. An exercise programme can help strengthen the muscles around your joint and in some cases anti-inflammatory medications are advised.  There are alternative types of knee surgery which are less invasive to total knee replacement.  

Knee replacement surgery costs?

Prices for an uncemented and a cemented knee replacement costs are available here. These are guide prices. The price covers your pre-assessment, surgery and aftercare costs. It does not include your initial consultation or any diagnostic imaging before being listed for surgery. If you decide to proceed with surgery you will be sent a copy of our full terms and conditions.

What other kinds of knee operations, treatments and procedures are available?

Other types of knee operations and procedures include: knee arthroscopy for the repair of torn cartilages, removal of loose materials, and anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction.

 A knee arthroscopy allows your surgeon to see inside your knee using keyhole surgery. They insert a tiny camera into your knee through small cuts in the skin around your knee. Your surgeon can diagnose and treat some common knee problems using knee arthroscopy. Knee arthroscopy can negate the need for a large cut in your skin as in open surgery. This may reduce the amount of pain you feel and speed up your recovery after surgery.

Problems inside your knee can also be diagnosed using a MRI scan, but a knee arthroscopy may then be required to treat the problem.

Your consultant can diagnose problems such as a torn cartilage, ligament damage and arthritis using knee arthroscopy. The main benefit of knee arthroscopy surgery is to confirm exactly what the problem is and in many cases to treat the problem at the same time.

Your surgeon will examine the inside of your knee. They will wash out any loose material caused by wear of your joint surfaces. They can usually trim or repair a torn cartilage without needing to make a larger cut.

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction surgery is performed if your ACL has been torn or ruptured. This damage of your ACL can cause your knee to collapse or ‘give way’ when making twisting or turning movements. Your surgeon will replace your ACL with a piece of suitable tissue from elsewhere in your body usually using knee arthroscopy.

Can I go back to sports after a knee replacement operation?

Your consultant and physiotherapist will recommend an exercise programme for you that lasts for at least two months after surgery.

Usually around twelve weeks post-operation, your consultant will give you the go-ahead to return to many of the sporting activities you enjoyed before your knee replacement.

In general, lower impact fitness activities such as swimming and golf put less stress on your knee joint and are preferable over high-impact exercise.

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