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Published on July 21, 2020

What to Expect with Knee Replacement Surgery

Knee Replacement

Do you think you may be a candidate for knee replacement surgery? Knee replacement surgery has been proven to benefit most patients, so it’s worth considering.

UNC Lenoir Health Care defines knee replacement surgery as “surgery to replace the ends of bones in a damaged joint. This surgery creates new joint surfaces.” In knee replacement surgery specifically, doctors remove the damaged cartilage and replace it with new joint surfaces in a step-by-step process. You can find more detailed information about knee replacement surgery on the UNC Lenoir Health Care website.

According to Dr. Louis Peak, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with UNC Lenoir Health Care, your surgeon can help you decide if you are a candidate through a series of exams and x-rays. Together, you will decide on a surgical plan that considers specific health factors unique to you. The surgery usually requires a 1-3 night stay in the hospital due to anesthesia and other risk factors, and you will be monitored closely by a team to make sure you’re ready to leave the hospital.  Some healthy patients may be a candidate for surgery as an outpatient.

Dr Peak recommends that all patients considering a knee replacement take small steps prior to surgery to improve overall heath, like implementing a balanced diet and regular exercise routine. Losing weight can increase knee mobility and lessen strain on the joint. It can also aid in recovery time and lessen complications. Left unchecked, obesity can cause difficulties before and after surgery, including but not limited to:

  • Longer surgery time.
  • Increased blood loss.
  • An extended stay in the hospital.
  • An approximately 6x higher risk of infection for knee replacement (an acceptable infection rate is 1% or less of patients).

Dr. Peak also says that it is important to note that excess weight causes joints to wear out faster, and this includes both natural and artificial joints. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

More than 70% of Americans are overweight, with 37.7% classified as obese and 7.7% classified as morbidly obese. A BMI of less 35 is optimal and should be pursued before embarking on any surgical procedure.

Like any surgery, knee replacement surgery involves risks, including:

  • Infection.
  • Blood clots in the leg veins or lungs.
  • Heart attack.
  • Stroke.
  • Nerve damage.
  • Need for future surgery.

It is important to reiterate that these risks can be greatly decreased by following your doctor’s recommendations for optimal health prior to surgery.

Knee replacement surgery has been shown to benefit patients. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), “90 percent of people who have a knee replacement experience a significant reduction in pain.”  In addition, “for many, it helps them to stay active and may enable them to return to activities they previously enjoyed, such as walking and golf.” Dr. Peak says that his patients often say they wish they had the surgery much sooner, as the results are overwhelmingly positive.  In addition, the surgical procedure itself, pain management techniques, and physical therapy have advanced greatly since the early days of the surgery. This has led to easier surgeries and recoveries.

UNC Lenoir Health Care is at the forefront of medical technology with the acquisition of the new Mako Robot to assist in surgical procedures. In clinical studies, the Mako Robot protected soft tissue and ligaments from damage and enabled surgeons to execute their surgical plans more accurately. Mako patients surveyed six months after surgery reported lower pain scores and better patient satisfaction scores than those who received a conventional joint replacement. For more information on the Mako Robot and how it can help you with surgery, or to schedule a consultation for knee replacement surgery, contact UNC Lenoir Health Care at 252.522.4446.