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Before and During Your Surgery

In the weeks before you enter the hospital, your orthopaedic surgeon will order tests to make sure you are healthy enough for surgery. These include:

  • Blood tests to measure your red blood cell count
  • EKG to measure your heart
  • Urine tests to check for infection and pregnancy
  • X-rays to check your lungs

Certain problems, like diabetes, may slow the healing process, so tell your surgeon if you have any conditions. Also, certain medications, like blood thinners and anti-inflammatory medications, may result in excessive bleeding and may need to be stopped at a determined time before surgery.

Prior to knee replacement surgery, your anesthesiologist will review your medical chart and discuss the anesthesia appropriate for your situation. There are 2 common types of anesthesia used during knee replacement surgery: general anesthesia, where the patient is put to sleep, and regional anesthesia, where the patient's leg is numbed, either from below the waist with an epidural or from the hip down with a femoral/sciatic nerve block. Which type of anesthesia you will receive depends on your situation as the patient, as well as your surgeon's and anesthesiologist's recommendations. Speak with your surgeon or anesthesiologist if you have any concerns regarding the anesthesia that will be used during your surgery.

During Knee Replacement Surgery
During knee replacement surgery, the worn surfaces at the end of the thighbone are removed using special instruments. The bone is then shaped to prepare for a new covering.

The top of the shinbone (tibia) is prepared in a similar way. The worn surface is removed and a new metal tray is placed on top of the remaining bone. This tray holds a hard plastic spacer that will become the new shock absorber between the smooth metal coverings. Your surgeon may also replace the back of the kneecap with a new plastic surface. These components can be fixed to the bone by either using bone cement or a "press fit" allowing your bone to grow into the coating on the prosthesis. Your surgeon will typically decide which type of fixation to use based on numerous factors including age, activity level, bone quality, and other associated medical conditions.

Knee Joint Illustrations

Near the end of your surgery, your surgeon will secure the new knee. When the implant is in position and all of the supporting muscles and ligaments are working well, your surgeon closes the incision with stitches or staples.

When your surgery is over, you will be taken to the recovery room. Generally, you can expect to be moved to your regular room within 1 to 3 hours after surgery.

The performance of knee replacements depends on age, weight, activity level, and other factors. There are potential risks and recovery takes time. People with conditions limiting rehabilitation should not have this surgery. Only an orthopaedic surgeon can tell if knee replacement is right for you.

Next: Following Your Surgery


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