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For knee replacement surgery, you are positioned on your back. The orthopedic surgeon makes a cut of about eight to 10 inches over your knee. The incision is about half this size for minimally invasive surgery. Moving the kneecap out of the way and taking care to do minimal damage to the muscles and ligaments, the surgeon makes flat cuts to remove damaged sections from the top of the tibia and the end of the femur and to carefully contour the bone to fit the implant. Precision guides ensure that the bone is shaped correctly to fit the implant, an innovation that makes knee replacement far more accurate and successful today than in the 1970s.
The surgeon then puts trial implants in place and tests to make sure that the knee will straighten and bend without wobbling; it takes great surgical skill to properly balance the ligaments and tendons to work with the implant. The surgeon then attaches the implant components to the femur and tibia with cement or screws. If your patella will be resurfaced, the surgeon also attaches a small oval-shaped plastic piece to the back. After the surgeon finishes your knee replacement, he or she will stitch your incisions closed. The total surgical time for a knee replacement procedure is about one to two hours, though you will be in the operating room for longer than that while the surgical team preps you for surgery.
During knee replacement surgery, your doctor will first modify the bottom section of the femur to accept a new femoral component. Once the femoral component is in place, your doctor will modify the top section of the tibia to accept a new tibial component. A plastic spacer is inserted between the femoral and the tibial components at this time.
Your doctor will access the condition of your patella (kneecap) and if necessary resurface or replace the backside of the patella to better articulate with the new knee components already in place.
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.