In 1968, the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl, the first Hot Wheels toy car made its debut, and Richard Nixon was elected President of the U.S. It was also the year that the first knee replacement surgery was performed. Today, approximately 719,000 total knee replacements are performed in the U.S. to help relieve pain and decrease disability in people with knee problems.
The knee joint, which is one of the largest in the body, can wear out for numerous reasons, such as inflammation caused by arthritis, injury or everyday wear and tear. Knee replacement surgery may be recommended if pain limits activities, chronic inflammation in the knee does not improve with medications, the knee is stiff or deformed, or there is moderate to severe pain that occurs during rest. Most patients who undergo knee replacement surgery are over the age of 50. However, the procedure may be beneficial to patients of all ages depending on the individual’s levels of pain and disability.
A complete medical history will be taken prior to surgery and a physical examination will be completed to assess the range of motion, stability, and strength in the knee. X-rays may also be done to evaluate the extent of knee damage.
The majority of knee replacement procedures last approximately two hours and require some form of anesthesia, either general or spinal. During this time, the surgeon will make an incision that is eight to 12 inches long in the knee area, move the kneecap aside, remove the damaged cartilage and then insert the new metal and plastic knee joint.
After spending a short time in a recovery room, knee replacement surgery patients are moved to a hospital room where they will generally stay for several days before being discharged. During the hospital stay, blood thinners, support hose and compression boots (inflatable leg coverings) may be used to help prevent blood clots and decrease swelling. A continuous passive motion (CPM) machine may also be used to bend the leg back and forth to increase blood flow and mobility.
Knee replacement surgery patients can usually resume normal daily activities after about six weeks. Low-impact activities are encouraged after recovery, such as walking, swimming, biking or playing golf. However, physicians advise against jogging, running and participation in other high-impact activities after surgery.
For more information about knee replacement surgery at Lakewood Regional Medical Center, attend a free community lecture on joint replacement surgery.