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Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center

1325 S Cliff Avenue
P.O. Box 5045
Sioux Falls, SD 57117-5045
605-322-8000

Total Knee Replacement

Knee joint replacement is surgery to replace a knee joint with a man-made (artificial) joint. The artificial joint is called a prosthesis.

Overview

About the knee and replacement

Total Knee ReplacementDuring knee joint replacement surgery, damaged cartilage and bone are removed from the knee joint. Man-made (artificial) pieces, called prostheses, are then placed in the knee. These pieces may be placed in up to three surfaces in the knee joint:

  • Lower end of the thigh bone. This bone is called the femur. The replacement part is usually made of metal.
  • Upper end of the shin bone--the large bone in your lower leg. This bone is called the tibia. The replacement part is usually made from metal and a strong plastic.
  • Back side of your kneecap. Your kneecap is called the patella. The replacement part is usually made from a strong plastic.

    Outlook/prognosis

    • The results of a total knee replacement are often excellent.
    • The operation relieves pain for most people.
    • Most people do not need help walking after they fully recover.
    • Most artificial knee joints last 10 to 15 years.
    • Some last as long as 20 years before they loosen and need to be replaced again.

    Surgery details

    After you receive anesthesia, your surgeon will make a cut over your knee to open it up. This cut is often 8 to 10 inches long. Then your surgeon will:

    • Move your kneecap (patella) out of the way, then cut the ends of your thigh bone and shin (lower leg) bone to fit the replacement part
    • Cut the underside of your kneecap to prepare it for the new pieces that will be attached there
    • Fasten the two parts of the prosthesis to your bones. One part will be attached to the end of your thigh bone and the other part will be attached to your shin bone
    • Attach both parts to the underside of your kneecap. A special bone cement is used to attach these parts
    • Repair your muscles and tendons around the new joint and close the surgical cut

      The surgery usually takes around 2 hours. Usually, artificial knees have both metal and plastic parts.

      Before Surgery

      Before the procedure

      Always tell your doctor or nurse what drugs you are taking, even drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription.

      During the 2 weeks before your surgery

      • Prepare your home
      • Two weeks before surgery you may be asked to stop taking drugs that make it harder for your blood to clot. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), and other drugs
      • You may also need to stop taking medicine that can make you more likely to get an infection. This includes methotrexate, Enbrel, and other medicines that suppress your immune system
      • Ask your doctor which drugs you should still take on the day of your surgery
      • If you have diabetes, heart disease, or other medical conditions, your surgeon will ask you to see the doctor who treats you for these conditions
      • Tell your doctor if you have been drinking a lot of alcohol, more than 1 or 2 drinks a day
      • If you smoke, you need to stop. Ask your doctor or nurse for help. Smoking will slow down wound and bone healing
      • Always let your doctor know about any cold, flu, fever, herpes breakout, or other illness you have before your surgery
      • You may want to visit a physical therapist to learn some exercises to do before surgery and to practice using crutches or a walker
      • Set up your home to make everyday tasks easier

        Practice using a cane, walker, crutches, or wheelchair correctly to

        • Get in and out of the shower
        • Go up and down stairs
        • Sit down to use the toilet and stand up after using the toilet
        • Use the shower chair

          The night before your surgery

          • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight, EVEN WATER, unless otherwise instructed.

          What to bring

          • Personal hygiene items (toothbrush, powder, deoderant, razor, etc.)
          • Sweat pants
          • Shorts
          • Tops
          • Well-fitted slippers
          • Tennis shoes
          • Comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for therapy sessions

            On the day of your surgery

            • Drive to Avera McKennan and park in the ramp. If possible, park on the 3rd level of the parking ramp and take the skywalk to the main entrance of the hospital
            • Go directly to the Admitting Department on the ground floor
            • You will be escorted to the Ambulatory Nurses station on the second floor. Family members can be with you

            After Surgery

            After the procedure

            You will stay in the hospital for approximately two or three nights following surgery. You will be asked to start moving and walking as soon as you are able after surgery. It is our goal to have you up and moving around as soon as you can to help prevent any complications. As you recover, you will be under the care of highly-trained health care professionals.  

            Pain control during and after surgery is one of the most common concerns of joint replacement patients. There are several different types of pain control methods available that will keep you comfortable and allow you to be up and walking shortly after surgery. Your doctor will choose the method right for you based upon your medical history, the amount of pain you are having and your phase of recovery.

            You will participate in physical therapy twice daily to increase your strength and your ability to walk with the use of an assistive device. You will increase your walking distance and exercises each day as you recover.

            Full recovery will take three months to a year. Some people may need a short stay in a rehabilitation center after they leave the hospital and before they return home. A health care professional will help determine the safest options for you at the time of discharge to ensure your needs are met.

            Therapy and Rehab

            You will participate in physical therapy twice daily to increase your strength and your ability to walk with the use of an assistive device. You will increase your walking distance and exercises each day as you recover.

            Full recovery will take three months to a year. Some people may need a short stay in a rehabilitation center after they leave the hospital and before they return home. A health care professional will help determine the safest options for you at the time of discharge to ensure your needs are met.

            Exercising is important to obtain the best results from total joint replacement surgery. You will participate in physical therapy while you are in the hospital to help regain strength and mobility after surgery. Upon discharge, you will receive a home exercise program to help with your recovery. You may also participate in a physical therapy program at a facility or in your home.

            Your therapist will help establish individualized goals for you to reach for optimal recovery.

            View Animation

            Total Knee Replacement

            The surgery information on this page is intended as an informational resource only. Each patient and surgical situation is different. Patients should discuss details of a surgery, recovery and pain management with their doctor(s).

            The information provided above should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

            The procedure text and imagery on this page are part of our illustrated health encyclopedia provided by A.D.A.M. You can view the full article in our illustrated  health encyclopedia.

            Any video animations on this page are provided by Krames Staywell/Swarm Interactive.