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What's It Like: To get knee replacement surgery

The No. 1 reason to have a knee replacement is to relieve knee pain caused by severe arthritis. The second reason would be to gain back loss of function.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: April 1, 2012

Some research suggests that, after a person has a knee replacement surgery, barometric pressure, changes in the weather, can affect pain that he or she feels.

How long does it take to recover?

After six weeks from the time of surgery, you're about 80 percent recovered from the whole process. It takes a year with any joint replacement to fully recover.

At six weeks, you're off your walker or crutches and probably moving around well.

Proprioception, which is your mind's ability to understand where your knee is in space, takes time. After about a year, your knee will likely fully feel more like your own knee.

You also must undergo physical therapy, sometimes multiple days a week, for about six to eight weeks, starting immediately after surgery.

What are the risk factors?

The biggest risk when placing any prosthesis in the body is infection. Anything mechanical doesn't have blood supply, so your body's immune system can fight against the prosthesis' presence.

Other risks specifically with knee replacement surgery are blood clots and risks from anesthetic.

Patients can also have complications that cause their knee to not feel like their own knee. Their knee can feel stiff or continue to feel painful. Those are the major complications that surgeons try to avoid.

Overall, the risk of infection or blood clotting is about 1 percent. Diabetes and obesity can increase the chance for complications.

Do you need follow-up surgeries?

Typically with knee replacement, doctors tell patients that they hope their joint will last them 15 years to 20 years. Improvements in the materials used in knee replacement help improve these odds.

At 10 years from the time of surgery, about 95 percent of patients have the same knee prosthesis.

It decreases about 1 percent per year, so at 15 years, about 90 percent of patients still have the same prosthesis, and at 20 years, about 85 percent. Doctors' goal is for patients to have the same prosthetic knee for the full 15 years to 20 years.

A person's weight, activity level and other medical issues also affect how long the prosthetic knee will last.

Source: Dr. Corey Ponder, an orthopedic joint specialist at St. Anthony's Bone and Joint Hospital

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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