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Frequently Asked Questions about the Joint Center

What is arthritis?

In the knee joint there is a layer of smooth cartilage on the lower end of the femur (thigh bone), the upper end of the tibia (shin bone) and the undersurface of the patella (kneecap). This cartilage acts as a cushion and allows for smooth motion of the knee. Arthritis is a wearing away of the cartilage. Eventually the cartilage wears down to the bone. Rubbing of the bone against bone causes discomfort, swelling and stiffness.

What is a total knee replacement (arthroplasty)?

Most simply stated, it is a resurfacing of the worn and arthritic surfaces for the knee joint. A total knee replacement puts an artificial surface on all parts of the joint that contact each other as the knee bends. The knee replacement implant, which is made of metal and plastic in a variety of sizes, is fitted to the bone to provide an artificial surface that causes no pain.

When should I have this surgery?

When your pain level limits your lifestyle you may consider surgery. Your orthopedic surgeon will decide if you are a candidate for joint replacement. This will be based on your history, exam, x-rays and response to conservative treatment. The decision will then be yours.

How long will my new knee last and can a second replacement be done?

All implants have a limited life expectancy (typically 10-15 years) depending on the individual's activity level, weight, age and medical conditions. The implant's longevity will vary in every patient. It is important to understand that the implant is subject to wear, which may lead to mechanical failure. While it is important to follow your surgeon's recommendations after surgery, there is no guarantee that your particular implant will last for any specific length of time.

What are the major risks?

Most surgeries go well, without any complications. However, infection and blood clots are two of the more serious complications that may occur. To reduce the risk of these complications we use antibiotics and blood thinners. We also take special precautions in the operating room and throughout the hospital to reduce the risk of infections. A thorough medical examination preoperatively reduces the risk of medical complications.

Should I exercise before the surgery?

Yes. The therapy team will give you education at the preop class regarding exercises you should do before the surgery.

Will I need blood?

You may need blood after the surgery. The blood bank is considered safe, but we understand if you may want to use your own blood. For more information, discuss blood donation with your surgeon.

How long will I be incapacitated?

You should plan to get up in to a chair or walk the day of your surgery. The following day therapy will begin and you will begin walking with crutches or a walker.

How long will I be in the hospital?

Most knee patients will be hospitalized for 3-4 days after their surgery. There are several goals that you must achieve before you can be discharged.

Will I need to be put to sleep for the surgery?

An anesthesiologist will discuss anesthesia options with you. You may have a general anesthetic. Some patients prefer to have a spinal or epidural anesthetic, which numbs from the waist down and does not require you to be asleep. You will be given medication that will relax you and make you drowsy. It also helps you to not remember the surgery.

Will the surgery be painful?

You will have discomfort following the surgery, but we will try to keep you comfortable with the appropriate medication and with the use of ice. Generally, most patients are able to stop very strong medication within one day. Most patients control their own medicine with a special pump that delivers the drug directly into their IV or epidural.

Will I need a walker, crutches, or a cane?

Yes. For about 6 weeks we do recommend that you use a walker, cane or crutches.

Will I need help at home?

Yes. For the first several days or weeks, depending on your progress, you will need someone to assist you with meal preparation, etc. Preparing ahead of time, before your surgery, can minimize the amount of help needed. Having the laundry done, house cleaned, yard work completed, and single portions of frozen meals will help reduce the need for extra help.

Will I need physical therapy when I go home?

It is recommended that you continue physical therapy when you return home. Your doctor may recommend either home health or outpatient physical therapy.

How long until I can drive and get back to normal?

The ability to drive depends on whether the surgery was to your right leg or your left leg and the type of car you have. If the surgery was on your left leg and you have an automatic transmission, you may be driving sooner. Getting back to normal will depend on your progress. Discuss driving recommendations with your surgeon.

Will I notice anything different about my knee?

Yes. You might have a small area of numbness to the outside of the scar, which may last a year or more. Kneeling may be uncomfortable for a year or more. Some patients even notice some clicking when they move their knees. This is the result of the artificial surfaces.

When will I be able to get back to work?

The time to return to work should be discussed with your Orthopedics Surgeon. It may depend on the type of work you do.

How often will I need to be seen by my Orthopedic Surgeon following my surgery?

Two to three weeks after discharge, you will be seen for your first postoperative office visit. The frequency of your follow-up visits will depend on your progress.

Are there any restrictions following this surgery after my recovery period?

Yes. High impact activities such as running, tennis and basketball are not recommended unless approved by your physician. Injury prone sports such as downhill skiing are also dangerous for the new joint. Please ask your surgeon about the activities you enjoy and hope to continue.

What physical/recreational activities may I participate in after my recovery?

You are encouraged to participate in low-impact activities such as walking, dancing, golf, hiking, swimming, bowling, gardening, etc.

What are the different types of weight bearing I may be allowed to perform?

The doctor will indicate to you how much weight you will be allowed to put on your surgical leg when you walk and perform transfers. This will be communicated to your Joint Center Team as well. The different types of weight bearing are:

  1. Weight bearing as tolerated. Weight bearing as tolerated means you are permitted to put as much weight on your leg as you can tolerate. 
  2. 50% weight bearing. 50% weight bearing means you are permitted to put about one half of your body weight on your leg at any given time.
  3. Toe touch (or touch down) weight bearing. Toe touch (touch down) weight bearing means you are permitted to place your toe or foot on the floor for balance only, but no weight should be placed through it.
  4. Non-weight bearing. Non-weight bearing means you are not allowed to place any weight on your surgical leg at any time.

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400 West 16th Street, Pueblo, CO 81003

719.584.4000