Arthritis Home > Knee Replacement

If you have knee problems, your healthcare provider may recommend knee replacement surgery to replace a worn-out knee joint, relieve pain, and improve range of motion. The implant used to replace the knee is typically made of two metal parts, with a plastic insert between them. As with any surgery, there are risks with this procedure, such as allergic reactions and blood clots. However, your healthcare team will take every precaution to prevent any problems.

An Overview of Knee Replacement Surgery

Total knee replacement, also called total knee arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure that is performed thousands of times each year. The main reasons for performing a total knee replacement are:
  • To replace a worn-out knee joint
  • To improve the motion of your knee
  • To relieve pain.
Many conditions can cause your knee joint to wear out. The most common reason is arthritis, which is a result of wear and tear from daily activities over time.
Your doctor will usually first recommend non-surgical treatments for a worn-out knee joint. This can include medication, activity changes, or physical therapy. If these methods have been unsuccessful at relieving your symptoms, your doctor may recommend a total knee replacement.

What Happens When the Knee Wears Out?

As you get older, parts of the cartilage in your joint begin to wear out. As a result of this, the ends of your bones no longer have a smooth surface for gliding, and they begin to rub directly on each other, which causes pain. Some people have infections, injuries, or diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, that may speed up this wearing-out process.
A response to this process is that your body begins to produce more fluid in the joint to protect and lubricate the knee, making it swell and feel warm to the touch. As the process progresses, your knee movement decreases and the pain and swelling get worse. Your joint can even become deformed so that the knee seems to bend in abnormal directions.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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