Questions to ask your doctor before knee replacement
What to ask your doctor about knee replacement - before; Before knee replacement - doctor questions; Before knee arthroplasty - what to ask your doctor
Knee-joint replacement is surgery to replace all or part of the knee joint with a man-made or artificial joint. The artificial joint is called a prosthesis.
Below are questions you may want to ask your surgeon or health care provider about the surgery.
Your knee has been hurting for a while, and it hurts bad. You've had trouble sleeping. It may be hard to bathe, to do normal chores like wash the car, or even be comfortable on the job. You may have severe arthritis in your knee, and if so there's a good chance you need a knee replacement. So, what is a knee replacement? Knee replacements are usually done in people age 60 and older. If you need one, you probably have severe arthritis that limits your daily life. During knee joint replacement, your surgeon will remove damaged cartilage and bone from the knee joint. The surgeon then puts man-made pieces, called prostheses, in their place. The lower end of the thigh bone, also called the femur, is usually replaced with a metal part. The part that replaces the upper end of the shin bone, the tibia, is usually made from metal and a strong plastic. The piece that replaces the back side of your kneecap, or patella, is usually made from a strong plastic. You shouldn't feel any pain during surgery because you will have medicine to make you fall asleep. The surgeon will make a cut over your knee to open it up. The cut is usually eight to ten inches long. Your surgeon will move your kneecap out of the way, then cut the ends of your thigh bone and shin bone to fit the replacement part. The surgeon will then cut the underside of your kneecap and prepare it for the new pieces that will attach there. The surgeon then fastens the two parts of the prosthesis to your bones, the upper end of the shin bone and the lower end of the thigh bone. Then the parts are attached to the underside of your kneecap using a special cement. The surgery usually takes a couple hours. After surgery, you will probably stay in the hospital for three to five days. As soon as the first day after surgery, you will be asked to start moving and walking around with a walker, crutches, or a cane. You will likely need physical therapy to strengthen your new joint after your operation. Some people need a short stay in a rehabilitation center after they leave the hospital. At the rehab center, you will learn how to safely do your daily activities on your own. Full recovery can take three months to a year. Your new knee should last for 15 years or maybe even 20. And in the mean time, your new knee should allow you to resume your daily activities once you have learned to move around. Most or all of your pain and stiffness should go away.
How do I know if knee replacement surgery will help me?
- Is there any harm in waiting?
- Am I too young or too old for knee replacement?
- What else can be done for knee arthritis besides surgery?
- Which type of replacement would benefit me?
How much does knee replacement surgery cost?
- How do I find out if my insurance will pay for knee replacement surgery?
- Does insurance cover all of the costs or just some?
- Does it make a difference which hospital I go to?
Is there anything that I can do before the surgery so it will be more successful for me?
- Are there exercises I should do to make my muscles stronger?
- Should I learn to use crutches or a walker before I have the surgery?
- Do I need to lose weight before surgery?
- Where can I get help quitting smoking or not drinking alcohol if I need to?
How can I get my home ready before I even go to the hospital?
- How much help will I need when I come home? Will I be able to get out of bed?
- How can I make my home safer for me?
- How can I make it easier to get around in my home?
- How can I make it easier for myself in the bathroom and shower?
- What type of supplies will I need when I get home?
- Do I need to rearrange my home?
- What should I do if there are steps that go to my bedroom or bathroom?
What are the risks or complications of the surgery?
- What can I do before surgery to make the risks lower?
- For which of my medical problems (such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure) do I need to see my provider?
- Will I need a blood transfusion during or after the surgery? What about donating my own blood before the surgery so it can be used during the surgery?
- What is the risk of infection from surgery?
What will the surgery be like?
- How long will the surgery last?
- What type of anesthesia will be used? Are there choices to consider?
- What will be done to relieve the pain?
What will my stay in the hospital be like?
- How soon will I be getting up and moving around?
- Will I have a catheter in my bladder?
- Will I have physical therapy in the hospital?
- What other types of treatment or therapy will I have at the hospital?
- How long will I stay in the hospital?
- When will I go home after surgery?
- Do I need to go somewhere else for rehabilitation before going home?
Will I be able to walk when I leave the hospital?
Do I need to stop taking any medicines before my surgery?
- Aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or other arthritis medicines?
- Vitamins, minerals, herbs, and supplements?
- Other prescription medicines that my other providers may have given me?
What should I do the night before my surgery?
- When do I need to stop eating or drinking?
- What medicines should I take the day of surgery?
- When do I need to be at the hospital?
- What should I bring with me to the hospital?
- Do I need to use a special soap when I bathe or shower?
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Total knee replacement.
Mihalko WM. Arthroplasty of the knee. In: Azar FM, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 7.
Last reviewed on: 4/24/2023
Reviewed by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.