Knee Replacement – Procedure, Recovery, Cost


Knee replacement surgery for painful, stiff knee is the last option when all possible methods for treating chronic knee pain do not work.

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How knee replacement surgery is done?

You are administered general anesthesia epidural (numb below the waist) or spinal; the surgeon will make an eight to twelve inch incision to be made in the frontal area.  The damaged part of the joint is taken off from the bones’ surface and then a plastic, artificial joint or metal joint is inserted, and the surfaces are shaped around this joint.  The artificial joint is then connected to the thigh bone, knee cap and shin with cement or some such special material.

Minimally Invasive Knee Replacement Surgery

Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) has brought about a welcome change in knee replacement surgery.  Its main benefit is that it makes use of advanced techniques and instrumentation to the surgeon to do the operation without making a big incision. In this case, the cut made is just three to give inches.  These results in less tissue trauma, making the surgeon work between the fibers of the quadriceps muscles rather than the conventional way mentioned above. The other benefits are less pain, faster recovery time and better knee movement due to less tissue trauma.   At this point of time, this kind of Minimally Invasive Surgery is done only by a small percentage of orthopedic surgeons in North America. There is still ongoing research to find out long- term results of this kind of knee replacement surgery.

Knee replacement surgery recovery time

The average hospital stay is 3 to 5 days, and the recovery period after knee replacement surgery is one month or more. This means after one month or so (depends on doctor’s approval), a person is full fit to go to work. At first, you may walk with parallel bars, then a walking device like crutch, cane or a walker, till the knee is fully ale to support your entire body weight.  After six weeks, people are known to walk without much of assistance. You may also need to do physical therapy to boost your movement significantly after knee joint replacement surgery. Running and jumping may still need to be curtailed. You should remember to keep the affected knee as straight as possible and avoid squatting and kneeling during the recovery period

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Knee Replacement Surgery Complications

Knee joint replacements have been done for years, and now with Minimal Invasive Surgery, there is very less risk. But even the traditional knee joint replacement surgery is quite safe except for the surgical risks, one of them being blood clots. So the doctor may give you blood thinners to prevent this situation.  Infection and bleeding are also some risks that can crop up.  Others risks that may happen include:

1.      Fat in the bone marrow may become slack and enter bloodstream, leading to respiratory issues.

2.      Nerves in the knee area may get affected leading to numbness

3.      Some bones may be broken during the surgery, needing more hospital stay.

4.      In some cases, the replacement parts may become wobbly or break

How long will the artificial joint in the knees last?

Joint replacement surgeries have been done since the early 70s and though at that time, the new artificial joint would last for ten years, the joint implants now can easily last 20 years.  There are innovations being done in knee joint replacement surgery that can have joints that can last longer than this.

Knee Replacement Surgery Cost

The cost of knee replacement surgery can be in excess of $35,000, if the patient is without health insurance. However, some hospitals may give uninsured discounts. This discounted cost will reduced the overall cost by $12,000 or so.  Usually, the health insurance should cover knee replacement surgery, provided it is ordered by the health care provider. Usually, every form of surgery is covered unless there is an exclusion involved in the form of weight loss or cosmetic surgery.  You can also check with Medicare which gives insurance for knee replacement surgery. For patients who have insurance, out-of-pocket expenses can be anywhere between hundreds and thousands of dollar, depending on the copay, coinsurance or deductible.

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