Total knee replacement surgery is a topic that sounds very intimidating and for one about to undergo the procedure, nerves may be strung tight. Fortunately, a little knowledge on the subject takes away the fear of the unknown about the operation!
The first, and for some the scariest, part of the procedure is the marking of the leg. This literally is the part where the nurse will mark which leg is getting the surgery done. Soon after, you will be wheeled to the operating room. You’ll be put under with an anesthetic mixed with an amnesiac which won’t knock you out, but will make you forget the entire operation. Then the leg is sterilized, placed in a tourniquet to stop the flow of blood, and wrapped in operating fabric to minimize the risk of infection. Right after this is when the procedure begins.
The knee is bent to 90 degrees and the first incisions are made. These are precise cuts, conservatively made to have a minimum of scarring after the operation. These cuts allow the surgeon to reach the knee and perform the tasks at hand. After the cutting, they remove parts of the damaged femur, tibia, and platella bones with a specialized cutting tool. To remove any possibility of error, guides are attached to the bones to make a perfectly flat cut. This is done to create a flat base for the replacement materials to be attached to. After the bones are reshaped, test parts are placed on each of the three bones with a replaceable plastic spacer put in between them.
The test parts are used to make sure that the procedure will be a success. With the parts in place, the knee is moved from 0 degrees (flat) to 130 degrees (bent). This is the usual range of motion for legs. The surgeon wants to make sure that the optimum amount of mobility and flexibility is available to the patient after the operation.
If the parts do not allow the full range of motion, different materials may be placed in the leg. Following a successful test however, the operation will continue. A cement-like paste is then mixed for the surgeon. The surgeon will spread the material over the bones and attached the real implants. They will be the exact same as the test parts, just made of stronger materials. After a 10 minute or so drying period, another range of motion test will be done with the real implants to ensure that they were placed properly. Upon a successful test, the incision will be stitched up and the tourniquet removed. A recovery bandage may be placed on the wound to aid in healing.
After a successful operation, a follow-up visit or two may be scheduled for a later date. This is common and is definitely no cause for alarm. Patients should be able to return home within a few days but the recovery process will take anywhere from 4 weeks to six months.
Now armed with a little knowledge you can go into this procedure confident and secure. This article should have dispelled any fear about this operation you have had. I wish you the best of luck in your surgery!