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What can I expect from a total knee replacement surgery?

Travis M. Hendry, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
A total knee replacement should relieve knee pain and increase your ability to bend your knee. You should notice a difference shortly after surgery. You will have some pain from the surgical cut, however. This pain will decrease steadily over time. After a few weeks, you should be able to perform the tasks of daily living.

Orthopedic surgeons are the doctors who perform total knee replacement surgery. Many specialize in this particular surgery. If the orthopedic surgeon deems that the damage to your knee is extensive and requires a replacement, you'll have a couple of things to take care of before proceeding. First, will be a physical exam. Next, your blood will be sent for analysis. And you'll need to have X-rays taken so the surgeon can see the precise location of the damage. You may also choose to have your own blood collected in advance to be used in the event it is needed during your surgery.

As with any major surgery, you should see that you have help at home during your weeks of recuperation. Life will not return to normal immediately following your procedure. You will need to make some adjustments to your normal routines. Avoiding stairs and not lifting anything heavy or even moderate in weight should be planned for. Your physical environment at home may need to be re-organized, eliminating clutter. And particular attention should be paid to your access to the bathroom and shower. Handrails in these locations are a good idea. Don't forget to arrange for transportation home from the hospital, it will be awhile before you will be driving.

Part of the pre-operative process involves deciding on the type of anesthesia you want. General anesthesia will put you to sleep for the entire surgery. You will go to sleep before the procedure begins and wake up in the recovery room. However, both spinal and epidural anesthesia will permit you to remain conscious during the whole process.

Spinal and epidermal anesthesia requires that a needle be inserted into your spine. In the case of a spinal, the needle is inserted into the cerebrospinal fluid. And in the case of an epidermal, the needle is inserted into the epidural space. Both of these locations are inside the vertebrae and the needle will inject a local anesthetic and narcotics to these local regions. While you will remain awake, you will be relaxed and may, in fact, have no memory of the procedure.

Use of spinal or epidermal anesthesia makes it easier to control pain immediately after your procedure. They also have a lower risk of shock during the surgery. General anesthesia has a disadvantage in that it takes longer to recover from the anesthesia after surgery and that can delay the start of physical therapy techniques needed for you to heal.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.