A knee replacement is an operation to replace damaged parts of the knee joint. It can be either a total knee replacement (TKR) or a partial (unicompartmental) knee replacement. The new part is called a prosthesis.
Surgery to replace a worn-out knee joint is very common. It is increasingly popular, as the outcomes have become better and better over the last decade or so. John Cleese says he's "practically bionic now" having had his knee replaced, as well as both of his hips.
Why is it done?
The usual reason that someone has a knee replacement is because they have very painful arthritis in their knee.
How do I know if I need one?
You should always bear in mind that a knee replacement is a major operation and you should really only be considering it when you have run out of other options. A doctor can tell you that you have arthritis in your knee and they can tell you that you could have a knee replacement but only you can decide if the time is right for you. Most people who decide to have a knee replacement are already taking painkillers every day but are still not able to walk far and need to use a stick.
Looking at all of the research on knee replacements (and it's good to know that there is lots), it would seem that the people who do best after a knee replacement are the ones with severe arthritis but not so bad that the joint is completely destroyed. This could be because it's really important to have strong muscles around the knee in order to make the best recovery and people who have the most advanced disease tend to have very weak leg muscles.
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- Mini-incision surgery for total knee replacement; NICE Interventional Procedures Guidance, May 2010
- Carr AJ, Robertsson O, Graves S, et al; Knee replacement. Lancet. 2012 Apr 7 379(9823):1331-40. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60752-6. Epub 2012 Mar 6.
- Hofstede SN, Nouta KA, Jacobs W, et al; Mobile bearing vs fixed bearing prostheses for posterior cruciate retaining total knee arthroplasty for postoperative functional status in patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Feb 4 (2):CD003130. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003130.pub3.
- Ferket BS, Feldman Z, Zhou J, et al; Impact of total knee replacement practice: cost effectiveness analysis of data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative. BMJ. 2017 Mar 28 356:j1131. doi: 10.1136/bmj.j1131.
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