What Happens During Knee Replacement Surgery?

During knee replacement surgery, damaged cartilage and bone are removed from the knee joint and replaced with an artificial joint. First, the worn surfaces at the end of the thigh bone are removed using special instruments, and the damaged knee joint is resurfaced with metal and plastic implants. Next, the top of the shin bone (tibia) is prepared in a similar way. The worn surface is removed, and a new tibial implant is placed on top of the remaining bone. This tibial implant holds a hard plastic spacer that will become the new shock absorber between the smooth metal coverings.

Female doctor holding clipboard

In 2019 over 1.6 million joint replacement procedures were performed in Australia. Almost 850,000 of which were knee replacements, making knee replacement surgery one of the most common orthopaedic procedures.1

What Do You Know About Knee Replacement Surgery?

All of the components can be fixed to the bone using bone cement, or if it's a cementless design, it will have a rough, porous surface that allows the bone to grow directly into the coating on the implant. Your doctor will decide what’s right for you based on age, activity level, bone quality and any medical conditions you may have.

Your surgeon will bend and flex the knee to ensure that the implant is working correctly and that the alignment, sizing, and positioning are suitable. Once your new knee is secured, the incision will be closed with stitches or staples.

female doctor talking to woman

Procedure Options

There are several options for knee replacement. Your surgeon will advise on the best procedure for you.

Total Knee Replacement

This operation involves removing damaged cartilage at the ends of the femur and tibia and replacing the joint surfaces with metal components.

Partial/Unicompartmental Knee Replacement

This procedure may be recommended in the earlier stages of osteoarthritis, when only part of the knee needs to be resurfaced.

Revision of Total Knee Replacement

This is a re-operation on a previously performed total knee replacement that has worn out, failed, or become loose. Some or all of the previous components are removed and replaced.

Bilateral Knee Replacement

Both knees are replaced at the same time.

References

1. Australian Orthopaedic Association National Joint Replacement Registry (AOANJRR). Hip, Knee & Shoulder Arthroplasty: 2020 Annual Report, Adelaide; AOA, 2020: 1-474. [Accessed from: https://aoanjrr.sahmri.com/annual-reports-2020].

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This information is intended for residents of Australia only.

The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always talk to your doctor before you make decisions about your health.

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