What is a total knee arthroplasty?


Quick Answer

Total knee arthroplasty, also known as total knee replacement, is a procedure where surgeons replace both surfaces of the knee joint with prosthetic devices, states the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Doctors use total knee arthroplasty to treat severe knee pain when other measures, such as walking supports and medication, are insufficient. The most common reason a person requires total knee arthroplasty is damage from arthritis caused by age-related wear and tear or injury.

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Full Answer

During total knee arthroplasty, surgeons first prepare the bone by removing the existing cartilage surfaces and a small portion of the underlying bone from the ends of the femur and tibia, explains American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. They then attach new metal surfaces to the bone. Surgeons can use either cement or a press-fit technique to secure the metal parts. Depending on the patient's condition, they may also resurface the kneecap with a plastic button. Finally, a plastic spacer is placed between the metal surfaces to create a smooth gliding surface.

Total knee arthroplasty is very effective in reducing knee pain and improving function for most patients, claims American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The devices that replace the knee can last for several years with proper care, and doctors typically advise that patients refrain from high-impact activities, such as jumping, jogging and running, to avoid premature wear and tear.

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