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.
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.
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.
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.
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.