The knee is both the biggest and strongest joint in the human body; it is required for every single leg movement. The knee joint is present at the intersection of the thigh bone, kneecap and shin bone, where a special kind of cartilage tissue is present to protect the joint and aid in movement. Several ligaments hold the thigh bone and shin bone together. The entire inner knee region is layered with the smooth synovial membrane, which reduces friction to almost nothing. A healthy knee has all these parts working in perfect synchrony with each other, but if any of them are damaged, the knee joint will not function at its peak, causing weakness, pain and inability to walk.
Knee pain is most commonly caused by arthritis, which produces chronic pain. Arthritis can be due to wear and tear of the knee joint due to old age (osteoarthritis), inflammation of the synovial membrane (rheumatoid arthritis), or severe injuries to the knee (post-traumatic arthritis). It can result in difficulty walking or standing, and may even cause pain while seated. Knee deformities can also result from untreated arthritis. Before jumping into surgery, the patient might want to look into several nonsurgical methods to treat arthritis. Some of them are exercise, medication, knee support, and weight loss. If these fail to provide support, a total knee replacement procedure, also known as arthroplasty, is recommended. There are several affordable surgery packages available online. There are no age limits for arthroplasty; in fact most patients are over 60 years old.
Replacement of the knee joint is one of the safest and most successful methods for obtaining relief from arthritis symptoms. The doctor will first assess the symptoms and overall knee functionality using x-rays or MRI scans before performing the joint replacement operation. Total knee replacement surgery involves the following steps:
- Removal of the lower end of the thigh bone and the upper end of the shin bone.
- Replacement of the removed bone fragments with biocompatible metal implants.
- Resurfacing of the kneecap by cutting into it and placing a plastic spacer between the implants for frictionless movement.
Knee replacement surgery cost is 60-80% cheaper than before, after the government imposed a price cap on knee implants earlier this year. The surgery takes around 2-4 hours, following which the patients spend upto a week at the hospital. After returning home, the patient is advised to follow certain precautions regarding caring for their new knee and consuming a balanced diet. Performing daily exercise, preferably under the guidance of a trained physical therapist, is strongly recommended.
The success rate of total knee replacement surgery is very high, with over 90% of patients having no issues even after a couple of decades. However, there are still some risks to be considered. The formation of blood clots in veins, called deep vein thrombosis, is a common side-effect of arthroplasty. These clots could be dangerous if they reach the lungs. Infections around the implants are also common, but can be controlled with antibiotics. Sometimes, the metal implants may start to break down due to excess motion, so movement must be regulated post-surgery. Very rarely, patients may complain of constant knee pain. If any of these symptoms are noticed, the doctor must be consulted immediately. Many of these complications can be avoided by undergoing partial knee replacement, mostly in cases where only parts of the knee have arthritis. However, there is a small chance that future surgery might be necessary if the arthritis spreads to the rest of the knee.