While there are numbers of factors that contribute to joint disorders such as obesity, genes, repetitive injuries and developmental abnormalities, arthritis is by far the most common reason that may lead to a knee replacement surgery.
The knee joint is the most complex and largest of joints and it helps in straightening and bending of the leg. It comprises of the kneecap (patella), the top of the leg bone (tibia) and end of the thigh bone (femur). Since our legs carry our weight most of the time, the knee joint is supposed to be the most stressed joint in our body. Due to this complexity and stress, the risk of developing arthritis increases manifold in a knee joint than any other part of the body.
When there is a loss of articular cartilage of patella, tibia or femur, it is called arthritis of the knee. The loss of space that occurs between the two ends of bone can be seen through x-ray, which remains the most common form of a diagnostic method.
Because of this loss of space between two bones, an arthritic patient feels stiffness in the knees and feels that the movements have been curtailed. Sometimes people actually feel a catching or clicking within the knee. In general, performing any physical activities such as walking, climbing for longer durations makes the pain worse. When arthritis has gotten to be severe, the pain may occur even when sitting or lying down. This pain is felt all around the knee joint including its front and back parts. At its peak, it can be felt even in sitting or lying down positions.
Arthritis of the knee is usually seen at the age of 60 or 70. People of other ages can also have arthritis of the knee as it depends upon body weight, physical activities, and health of joints. Needless to say, while age is an important factor, people of all ages can have arthritis of the knee.
Types of Arthritis Leading to Knee Replacement Surgery
- Rheumatoid arthritis: It is an autoimmune disease that causes wear and tear of the articular cartilage. In this overproduction of synovial fluid is there. This results when inflammation of synovial membrane occurs by the attack of an immune system.
- Osteoarthritis: This is inflammation of joint which occurs from degeneration of joints. Breakdown of cartilage causes pain and stiffness and thus bones start rubbing against each other that decreases the mobility.
- Traumatic arthritis: This is a result of a severe knee injury, which occurs from an accident, fracture, or any other form of injury. In future, these injuries can cause knee pain and stiffness and increases the risk of developing arthritis.
Other factors leading to knee replacement surgery
- Avascular Necrosis or AVN: AVN can also lead to Knee degeneration.Interruption of the blood supply results in a death of bone tissues. This damage of the joints results in chronic pain and limits the movements.
- Abnormal formation or alignment: High stress or pressure on the knee due to improper alignment of joints can result in degeneration of knee.
Need of knee replacement surgery
When people feel that they no longer can bear or live with the pain of arthritis they prefer to go for knee replacement surgery. Some people wonder that why they should go for knee replacement or when they should have their knees replaced. The decision to go for knee replacement surgery depends upon one’s ability to perform daily activities along with arthritis pain. Many people prefer to live with this pain by quitting the activities that cause pain. The decision to go for knee replacement surgery is not an easy one as it involves cost and time of rehabilitation.
Majority of people go for knee replacement surgery due to following reasons:
- To decrease their pain
- To increase the mobility
- To improve quality of life
- To improve day to day activities
Types of knee surgery
- Total Knee Replacement Surgery (Total Knee Arthroplasty): In this procedure,weight-bearing surfaces of the knee are replaced.
- Partial Knee Replacement Surgery (Unicompartmental Knee Arthroplasty): Replacement of any one of the three knee’s compartments is done under this procedure
- Knee Osteotomy (Tibial Osteotomy or Femoral Osteotomy): It involves cutting down and altering the shape or alignment of a leg bone. In a tibial osteotomy, modification of the shinbone is done whereas, in a femoral osteotomy, modification of the thigh bone is done.
Benefits of knee replacement
The knee replacement provides relief from the following symptoms of arthritis –
- Decrease in chronic pain which limits the daily activities
- Removes stiffness
- Removes deformity
- Increases the movements to perform daily physical activities
- Improves the quality of life.
Risks and complications of knee replacement
Every surgery comes with some risks and complication. For knee replacement, these are as under:
- Blood loss
- Allergic reactions to medications
- Increased risk of complications such as heart attack, strokes
- Kidney failure
- Nerve damage
- Prolonged hospitalization
- Rarely death
Alternates to knee replacement
Before going in for knee replacement surgery we should try some non-operative methods. These are as follows:
- Lifestyle modification
- Weight management
- Healthy diet
- Yoga or Pranayam
- Use of medications for pain management.
One should go for surgery only when other non-operative treatment methods fail. It is a very important decision of one’s life, so should be taken only after making oneself sure about the risks and complications related to it. Although surgery improves the quality of life it is not a pleasant aspect for everyone. Some are ready to live with complications while some are happy with the replaced knee. Knee replacement can improve the quality of life for sure but along with surgery, one has to make some lifestyle modifications as well to get the maximum benefits of a knee replacement surgery.
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