Knee replacement surgery involves replacing damaged joint surfaces (cartilage) on the knee cap (patella), thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia) with metal and/or non-metallic implants.

Resurfacing the knee’s worn surfaces helps to alleviate pain and increase mobility, allowing a return to normal activities.

Who should have knee replacement surgery?

Individuals suffering from severe arthritis or injury who have already tried medications, modified activity levels, physical therapy, and the use of walking supports might be candidates for knee replacement surgery.  The decision to have knee replacement surgery should be a collaborative decision between a patient and his or her family, primary care physician and orthopedic surgeon.

Are there alternatives to knee replacement surgery?

  • Arthroscopic knee surgery can be used to repair damaged surfaces. This less invasive procedure allows orthopedic surgeons to treat problem areas using a high-resolution camera called an arthroscope to guide them through small incisions.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs, cortisone injections and visco supplementation can also provide temporary relief.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

  • How much improvement can I expect from surgery?
  • Are you board certified? Click here to search for a doctor in our online physician directory for a listing of board certified Orthopedic physicians at St. Clair Hospital.
  • What type of anesthesia will be used?
  • What type of implant will be used?
  • Should I discontinue taking any of my medications prior to surgery?
  • What are the complications associated with this type of surgery?
  • How long will I be in hospital?
  • How long will I be out of work?
  • When will I be able to resume day-to-day activities?
  • Am I a candidate for St. Clair Hospital’s Fast Track program?

How do I prepare for surgery?

  • Preparing for knee replacement surgery usually involves a health evaluation, including blood tests, a cardiogram and a urine sample. Patients should discuss all medications and supplements with his or her physician.
  • Patients should attend a pre-operative education class designed especially for those undergoing knee replacement surgery.  Physical and occupational therapists will discuss how to prepare the home for a safe post-surgical environment.

How long will I be in hospital?

Patients undergoing knee replacement surgery can expect a hospital stay of approximately one to two days. Rehabilitation will continue after discharge.

How will I control pain?

There will be pain after surgery. An orthopedic surgeon will prescribe medication to control the pain. Patients should alert the nursing staff if the pain medication is not working so changes can be made. It is important to be comfortable so physical therapy is not delayed.

What’s the success rate?

Typically as a patient recovers, he or she will experience less pain and greater range of motion.  Much of the success of the surgery is associated with how well a patient follows his or her orthopedic surgeon’s post-operative instructions.

What are the possible complications?

  • Complications during or after surgery are rare, but possible. Risks for complications should be discussed with a physician.
  • Blood clots can be a complication after knee replacement surgery. A physician will often start a patient on blood thinning medication to help prevent blood clots from forming. If a blood clot forms, a patient will be administered a higher dose of blood thinning medication.
  • Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or chronic liver disease, are more susceptible to infection. Infection can usually be controlled with antibiotics; however, depending on the severity, additional surgery might be required.

What’s the recovery process?

  • Patients should make arrangements to have someone help at home during the first few days, especially if  extensive rehabilitation is required.
  • Recovery rates vary from person-to-person. Intensive rehabilitation might take up to several months.  In addition to outpatient physical therapy, a patient might be given an in-home exercise regimen to help  build strength and endurance.  Most individuals gradually return to their normal activities in about 8 – 12 weeks.
  • Knee replacement patients should avoid high-impact sports, such as running and high-impact aerobics.  These types of activities might loosen the prosthesis and can be painful.
  • An orthopedic surgeon will monitor a patient’s progress over a few months. He or she will discuss further appointments prior to discharge.

For Medicare Patients Only

Please click here for information about Medicare’s bundled payment program for joint replacement.


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Post-Op Education

St. Clair offers post operatives video education for total joint replacements. These online educational films will help you and your caregiver understand and teach you on to get back to feeling more like yourself post procedure.