Knee Replacement Surgery: What You Should Know

Knee replacement surgery is recommended for knee pain or limited knee functioning. There are three types of material used for knee implants, including metal, plastic, and ceramic; you and your surgeon will make the choice of which to use. After knee surgery, the goal is to resume normal functioning; thus, your surgeon may assign a home healthcare worker to assist in this process.

Key takeaways:
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    Knee pain and poor functioning are indications of knee replacement surgery.
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    Knee replacement surgery involves the surgeon clearing the damaged bone and cartilage, then placing it in an artificial implant.
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    The implants can be made of metal, polyethylene (plastic), or ceramic, with the metal ones being the most durable and long-lasting.
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    After surgery, clicking and popping noises are normal; they are concerning if associated with pain and swelling.
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    A home health care assistant may be needed at your home to help with the activities of daily living.

What is knee replacement surgery?

Knee replacement surgery involves the surgeon clearing out the damaged bone and cartilage, then replacing it with an artificial solid implant (different types to be discussed later).

The surgery is considered if there is pain or decreased function, such as the inability to walk or climb stairs, and conservative treatments have not worked.


What are the knee structures involved with knee replacement surgery?

As you can see from diagram 1, the knee is made up of three main bones: the femur (thigh bone), the tibia (shin bone), and the patella (kneecap). The medial and lateral meniscus are thick fibrocartilage that cushions the femur and tibia. Also shown is the articular cartilage of the femur.


What exactly is surgically performed in knee replacement surgery?

As you can see in diagram 2 above, there are three different pictures. The picture on the far left shows a diseased knee with damaged cartilage and a narrowed joint space. The middle image demonstrates the knee's appearance after the surgeon removes the damaged cartilage and bone. Finally, the image on the far right shows the knee after surgery, with replacement implants.

What material is used for the artificial replacement parts?

Understanding the materials used for replacement implants (parts) can be the most confusing of the process. However, we will explain it in straightforward terms.


As seen in diagram 3, the replacement implant has four parts: the femoral component, the tibial component, the polyethylene (plastic) liner, and a kneecap (patellar) component.

The tibial component can be made of metal (titanium or chromium-cobalt) or ceramic material, while the femoral component can be made of metal, ceramic, or plastic. The plastic liner performs like cartilage, allowing for smooth motion.

The implant in diagram 3 is a metal-on-metal type with a plastic spacer.



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