The bearer of our weight and an indispensable joint for movement, our knees are truly a miracle of nature. From walking to squatting and kicking, our knees play an important role in our lives. So it is quite understandable that when our knees get damaged due to old age, disease or injury, the results can be quite painful indeed! Living with a chronic knee condition can not only be unbelievably uncomfortable for the person living with it, but also for their caregivers and family members who hate to see their loved ones in pain. Fortunately, there are quite a few things that one can do to ease the pain and lead a relatively comfortable life. These include medicines, physical therapy, injections, arthroscopic surgery (minimally invasive surgery), and osteotomy (where a cut is made in the shin or thigh bone to reduce the load on the damaged knee). However, when all else fails, then one must look at total knee replacement as an option.
What is Total Knee Replacement (TKR)?
Total Knee Replacement is one of the most common surgeries in the world with a large majority of patients going on to lead rich, happy and healthy lives. It requires a surgery of 1-2 hours followed by a hospital stay of 2-3 days.
The knee is human body’s largest joint and is made up of the lower end of the thighbone, the upper end of the shinbone and the kneecap. A knee replacement includes replacing some or all of the component surfaces of the knee joint with artificial implants. A knee replacement is performed to repair the damaged weight-bearing surfaces of the knee joint caused due to inflammatory diseases or injury. The damage overtime leads to extreme pain and can restrict joint mobility. Knee replacement is a major surgical procedure requiring hospital admission for 2 to 3 days.
A knee replacement could be more precisely termed as knee “resurfacing” as this procedure actually involves replacement of the surface of the bones.
Will the entire knee be replaced?
No. Though the name of the surgery is Total Knee Replacement, in reality, it is more like knee resurfacing where only the surface of the bone is actually replaced. So if you or your loved ones are having nightmares about you turning into a part robot overnight, rest assured, there is no such thing to be worried about! During the surgery, the damaged cartilage is removed and metal components are cemented or press-fitted into the bone. If the damage is too much then the undersurface of the kneecap or patella may also be replaced with a plastic button. To ensure smooth movement, a plastic spacer is inserted between the metal components.
Is there no alternative to surgery?
Like mentioned above, there are many alternatives available for those who want to avoid surgery but wish to live a comfortable life. However, if the damage is too great or if it is making one’s life really miserable, then it is better to get the surgery. The final decision is always left to the patient and their family members. However, if you or your loved one who is suffering from knee problems have:
1. Severe pain or stiffness that affects one’s quality of life
2. Moderate to severe knee pain at all times, even at rest.
3. Chronic swelling or inflammation that does not go away with rest and medication.
4. Knee deformity and,
5. When all other treatments have failed.
Then surgery will be the best option for you/them.
Is knee replacement surgery safe for my old parents?
Absolutely! You will be happy to know that complications in cases of knee replacement surgeries are extremely low, with the chances of serious complications at 2 %. Chances of potentially lethal complications are even less. Rapid improvements in surgical methods, techniques and materials have made knee replacements one of the safest and effective procedures out there. So don’t worry, your loved ones are in good hands!
Knee pain is not a walk in the park. Even a minor cut to the knee makes daily life and its movements difficult for us, so one can well understand how debilitating chronic knee pain can be. If you or your loved one is undergoing long term knee issues without any significant relief, then it is time to give TKR a chance to return you to your old happy and mobile self.