Tuesday, August 02, 2011
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Every year, more than half a million adults in the United States have knee joint replacements. The August issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter provides an overview of knee replacement, also called knee arthroplasty, which helps relieve pain and improve function in severely diseased knee joints.
In a normal knee, joint surfaces are covered with cartilage, a smooth, cushiony substance that allows the underside of the kneecap (patella) and the end of the thigh bone (femur) and lower leg bone (tibia) to move against each other with ease. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can damage the knee cartilage and bone, causing moderate to severe pain, even at rest. Total knee replacement is considered when knee pain significantly impairs daily activities such as walking, climbing stairs and getting in and out of chairs.
The surgeon removes damaged cartilage and bone to prepare the joint surfaces for the new knee joint components. The specialized metal and plastic components are positioned and aligned to restore near frictionless joint surfaces.
After surgery, successful rehabilitation includes exercise and low-impact activities. Most patients return to nonstrenuous activities, such as light housework and shopping, within three to six weeks. Most are able to walk without a cane or crutches after two months.
Knee replacement relieves pain and improves quality of life for most patients. While activity level before surgery will influence recovery, most patients resume a variety of low-impact activities such as swimming, gardening, playing golf or biking.
Knee replacement can be done on adults of all ages but is most commonly performed on older adults. The procedure is considered only when other treatments and strategies haven't helped. Less-invasive treatment options include modified activities, losing weight, walking aids and pain-relieving medications.
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