Arthroplasty (Knee Replacement)

What is an arthroplasty (knee replacement)?

Knee arthroplasty, or artificial total knee replacement, is a procedure to replace the arthritic (diseased) parts of the joint with artificial joint components (usually the surfaces of the ends of bones).

Knee pain caused by arthritis can severely affect your ability to lead an active life. Knee arthroplasty is becoming an increasingly common way of treating the condition in older people and in those with severe arthritis or knee injury.

If your doctor recommends knee arthroplasty as a treatment, it is helpful for you to know the anatomy of the knee to understand which parts will be affected by the surgery. The knee joint is made up of:

  • Tibia or shinbone – links your knee to the ankle
  • Femur or thighbone – connects your hip to your knee
  • Patella or kneecap – a small bone in front of the knee, which supports the smooth movement of the knee as it flexes or extends and protects the anterior surface of the knee joint

The articular cartilage – the smooth surfaces at the end of the femur and the end of the tibia – are the ones that get damaged when arthritis occurs.

How it works

In a total knee replacement procedure, the damaged end of the femur and end of the tibia are removed and replaced with prosthesis, an artificial part made from metal and plastic.

A plastic button may also be placed under the kneecap if the kneecap is also damaged. Likewise, the ligament that stabilises each side of the knee joint is either retained or replaced with a polyethylene post.

In a total knee replacement procedure, the damaged end of the femur and end of the tibia are removed and replaced with prosthesis

Why do you need a knee arthroplasty?

If you still experience pain after trying all other arthritis treatments, your doctor may recommend a total knee replacement.

The goal of the surgery is to allow you to resume your normal activities with less pain and greater freedom of movement.

The main reason for replacing any arthritic joint with an artificial joint is to stop the bones from rubbing against each other and causing pain. Replacing the painful arthritic joint with an artificial joint gives the bones new surfaces, which move smoothly without causing pain.

The reasons for getting a total knee replacement include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Deformities like bowed legs
  • Osteonecrosis of the knee – disrupted blood supply to a section of bone in the femur or tibia
  • Other knee injuries
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