Scientific American Health Alerts Guide to Knee Replacement

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Health After 50:
Knee Replacement Surgery Resource

When knee pain becomes overwhelmingly uncomfortable and debilitating, many people opt to have their old, achy joints replaced with artificial ones. In fact, roughly half a million Americans undergo knee replacement surgery every year.

A knee replacement is often the answer if you have pain that won’t subside and you are unable to move the joint well, even after your doctor has prescribed exercise, physical therapy, medication or dietary supplements. This type of discomfort is usually the result of osteoarthritis, in which the cushioning cartilage between the joints gets worn away over time. Both advancing age and obesity are risk factors for osteoarthritis—and not only is obesity on the rise in the United States, but the large baby-boomer population is aging, so the number of people choosing knee replacement surgery will continue to rise.

Here, we will give you a good idea of what to expect before and after a knee replacement and how to help ensure a successful recovery.

What Happens During Knee Replacement

Joint replacement is called arthroplasty, and the most common type of arthroplasty is total joint replacement. In this procedure, the entire diseased or damaged knee joint is removed and replaced with an artificial one (a prosthesis) to relieve pain and restore function. Source: Johns Hopkins Special Reports

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Knee Replacement Surgery

Knee replacement surgery is not a quick fix, and it is not without risks. Serious complications, such as blood clots and infections, can occur—but precautions can be taken to prevent or control them. In addition, the road to recovery can be difficult and time consuming, particularly with joint replacement surgery. Source: Johns Hopkins Special Reports

Is Age an Obstacle to Knee Replacement Surgery?

Some people may worry that they are too old too benefit from having a total knee replacement. But even osteoarthritis patients 75 and older appear to benefit greatly from joint replacement surgery, as a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine has indicated. Researchers followed 174 elderly patients with severe knee or hip osteoarthritis—average age 75—for 12 months, assessing them at six weeks, six months, and one year. Source: Johns Hopkins Special Reports

Minimally Invasive Knee Replacement Surgery

Surgeons continually seek ways to make joint replacements and repairs easier, safer and less arduous for the patient. A number of new techniques are currently under development. Source: Johns Hopkins Special Reports

Female Knee Replacements

Designed specifically to fit a woman’s knee, female knee replacements have been available only in recent years. Prior to 2006, when the Gender Solutions knee was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), knee replacements were unisex—designed to fit both men and women. Source: Johns Hopkins Special Reports

After Knee Replacement Surgery: Rehab and Recovery

Successful knee replacement requires a considerable investment of time and energy in rehabilitation following the surgery. Rehabilitation begins in the hospital, usually the day after surgery. During this period, a strict timetable of exercise, rest, and medication is crucial to the success of the surgery. Source: Johns Hopkins Special Reports

Resuming Physical Activities After Your Knee Replacement

If you are facing a knee replacement or have had one, you should talk to your physician about the risks of physical activity, such as a loosening or dislocation of the replacement and the possible need for a repeat surgery. Chances are, though, that a knee replacement won’t halt your golf game or drive you from the bowling lanes. Source: Johns Hopkins Special Reports


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