Knee Replacement: Arthroplasty Info

Brigham and Women’s Hospital is a leading provider of partial and total knee joint replacement services. Each year, our orthopaedic surgeons use their experience and expertise to help improve the quality of life of nearly 1,500 patients suffering from severe knee damage.

What is Arthroplasty?

Arthroplasty is a surgical procedure to replace or restore a damaged joint to ease pain and improve mobility, thereby improving the patient’s quality of life. Artificial materials, such as metal, polyethylene or ceramics, are used to either resurface the joint, replacing unhealthy parts of the knee and keeping healthy parts, or replace it totally, including cartilage and portions of both the thighbone (femur) and shinbone (tibia), with a prosthesis (an artificial joint).

Visit our Department of Orthopaedic Surgery Animations page to see a step-by-step presentation of what happens during a partial or total knee replacement.

Watch a video of a minimally invasive knee replacement that took place at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Knee Arthroplasty Services Offered at BWH:

  • Partial (unicompartmental) knee replacement surgery involves the replacement of one damaged portion (compartment) of the knee while leaving healthy areas intact. This procedure is most commonly performed on the inside (medial) section of the knee, but in some cases it is performed on the outside (lateral) section.
  • Total knee replacement surgery is performed to replace bone and cartilage from all sections of the knee – medial, lateral, and patellofemoral (kneecap).
  • Minimally invasive knee replacement surgery is an innovative procedure shown to be as effective as traditional open surgery, but with the advantages of smaller incisions, less blood loss, less pain, less trauma and less tissue damage. It also is believed that these benefits lead to a quicker recovery and rehabilitation for patients. Learn more about this innovative procedure by watching a video of a minimally invasive knee replacement procedure performed here at BWH.

Who Should Get a Knee Replacement?

The knee joint, which acts as the hinge between the femur (thighbone) and the tibia (shin), is one of the most commonly replaced human joints. The knee, like the hip, bears a lot of weight, making it particularly susceptible to the debilitating effects of arthritis – osteoarthritis, which wears down cartilage, or rheumatoid arthritis, tissue inflammation leading to the destruction of cartilage and bone.

A healthy knee joint bends easily, with healthy cartilage absorbing stress and allowing bones to glide freely over each other. An unhealthy knee joint, however, is stiff and/or painful. Cartilage can crack or wear away due to inflammation, injury, or simply a long lifetime of use, leading to increased friction and stiffness. As even more cartilage wears away, the exposed femur and tibia will rub against each other, causing significant pain and often times swelling of the knee joint.

Doctors will typically start treatment by using one or more alternative medical interventions, including arthroscopy, to try to alleviate your knee pain without joint replacement surgery. If these prove to be unsuccessful, your doctor will then consider factors such as your age, weight and quality of life goals to determine whether you would benefit from a knee replacement. This prosthesis, despite its range of motion limitations, can enable you to once again bend your knee easily and comfortably.

Recovering from the Surgery

Joint replacement surgery of the knee generally takes about 2-3 hours, followed by a 2-3 day stay in the hospital. Recovery largely depends on your general health before the surgery.  Most knee replacement recipients experience pain relief and/or improved movement relatively soon, but then need several months to recover their normal strength and energy accompanied with physical rehabilitation to improve function and mobility while decreasing pain and swelling. Your physician will give you instructions throughout your recovery, but below is an overview of what you should and shouldn’t do to improve the quality and speed of your recovery.

What can I do to help improve my recovery?

  • Keep your knee in a comfortable position.
  • Exercise every day.
  • Use an ice pack or cryocuff if your knee swells or feels tender.
  • Wear comfortable shoes with good traction and support.
  • Use small, slow movements when turning your body.

What shouldn’t I do after Knee Surgery?

  • Don’t bend your knee too far.
  • Don’t twist your knee.
  • Don’t participate in any high-impact activities, such as running and jumping.
  • Don’t overexert yourself.

Visit Knee Replacement Surgery to get more information on the reasons benefits and risks of knee replacement procedures and what to expect before, during and after the surgery. For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopaedic specialists, please call us at 1-800-294-9999.