Total knee replacement surgery is a major operation that is usually the last step a doctor will consider for keeping the patient mobile and increasing his quality of life. The surgery is major. It removes bone and basically replaces the entire knee joint with man-made materials. While this can be a lifesaver for many patients, occasionally there can be problems. Knowing what to look for can help you identify these problems should they occur.
In knee replacement surgery, the doctor removes the upper part of the lower leg bone (tibia), the lower part of the upper leg bone (femur) and the entire kneecap (patella), and replaces them with a prosthetic knee that was made for that patient using MRI imagery and X-rays.This enables the patient to resume normal day-to-day activities that may not have been possible with her damaged knees. In most cases, the operation is successful and has no major problems associated with it.
On rare occasions, during the process of a total knee replacement, tissue can be damaged more severely than intended, or neighboring tissues can be cut, burned or hurt in some way that was not foreseen by the surgeon. Most often, this damage can be fixed while the surgeon is in the joint, but sometimes this damage may require further surgery. It is very rare, but it can happen.
Bleeding and Blood Clots
A major concern with this operation is bleeding and blood clots. Most hospitals will make sure your blood type is banked before your operation, but it is important to verify that your type is on hand. During the surgery, major bleeding is a possibility and transfusions are common. After the surgery, blood clots in the leg are a real danger, and the doctors will have several precautions in place to avoid them, such as pressure stockings. It is important to follow all the doctor's instructions concerning the care of your knee to avoid this potentially life-threatening complication.
A side effect of this surgery that may or may not be permanent is numbness in a portion of the leg. This happens when the major nerve over the shinbone is cut as the surgeon replaces the joint. In most cases, the nerve will heal slowly over time and feeling will eventually be regained, but in some cases the damage is permanent, leaving the patient with an unpleasant sensation in a portion of his leg that can be anywhere from a couple of inches square to a large section of the leg. If this feeling persists, be sure to see your surgeon to determine if anything can be done to correct it.
Knee replacements do not last forever. They do wear out. The cement in them begins to crumble over time, and the knee joint will begin to loosen. This will happen, usually gradually, and a revision will be necessary to replace the replacement. Another major cause of a failed joint is infection. Despite all precautions, sometimes infection can set into the replaced knee. If antibiotic treatment fails, it will be necessary to remove the infected prosthetic and replace it with a new one, and usually one infused with antibiotics that will continue to be pumped out for months. An infection in your joint is no joke and should be taken very seriously.
- Photo Credit Rebecca Boardman
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