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Knee Replacement

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What do I need to know about knee replacement?

Knee replacement is surgery to replace all or part of your knee joint. It is also called knee arthroplasty.

Knee Anatomy

How do I prepare for knee replacement?

  • Weeks before your surgery:
    • Your healthcare provider will check your overall health. He or she will ask about your current knee pain or stiffness. Tell your provider how pain or stiffness affects your daily activities or ability to play sports. He or she may also ask about fatigue, anxiety, or depression you may have.
    • Some medicines will need to be stopped weeks before surgery. These medicines include blood thinning medicine, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. It also includes some antirheumatic medicines. Make sure your healthcare provider knows all medicines you are taking. Also ask how long before surgery to stop taking them.
    • Your healthcare provider may have you do exercises to strengthen your leg muscles before surgery.
    • You may need x-rays to help your healthcare provider plan your surgery. Ask about any other tests you may need.
  • The night before and the day of surgery:
    • Your healthcare provider may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery.
    • You will be told what medicines you can or cannot take the morning of surgery.

What will happen during knee replacement?

  • You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. You may instead be given regional anesthesia, such as spinal or epidural anesthesia, or a peripheral nerve block. Regional anesthesia keeps you numb from the waist down, but you will be awake during surgery.
  • Your surgeon will make an incision over your knee joint. He or she will remove the damaged parts of your knee joint and replace them with a knee implant. The knee implant may be made of metal and plastic. Your surgeon may secure it with medical cement.
  • Your surgeon will move the muscles and other tissues around your joint back into place. He or she will close your incision with stitches or staples. He or she may use strips of medical tape and a bandage to cover your wound.
Total Knee Replacement

What should I expect after knee replacement?

  • It is normal to have increased stiffness and pain after surgery. Your pain and stiffness should get better with exercise.
  • Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. The physical therapist will help you walk after your surgery. When you walk the same day after surgery, it helps decrease pain and improves the function of your knee. You may use crutches or a walker.
  • You may be in the hospital 1 to 4 days, or you may go home shortly after surgery. Your healthcare provider may talk to you about rehabilitation you can do at home. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help strengthen your knee and prevent stiffness. You may also need occupational therapy to teach you the best ways to bathe and dress.
  • You may be given a joint replacement ID card. The card will tell which joint was replaced and when it was replaced. Tell all healthcare providers about your joint replacement surgery.

What are the risks of knee replacement?

You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. Nerves or blood vessels may be damaged during surgery. After surgery, your knee may be stiff or numb. You may continue to have knee pain. You may get a blood clot in your leg. This may become life-threatening. Your implant may get loose or move out of place. The implant may get worn out over time and need to be replaced.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.