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What is knee replacement surgery?

Treatments for arthritis

Unfortunately for many types of arthritis, including the most common type’s osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, there is no known cure. However, if you are diagnosed with knee arthritis, there are a number of treatment options depending on its severity, impact and type.

Arthritis differs from person to person but a lot can be done to enable you to maintain a normal active life. Depending on your circumstances, the right treatment options may help relieve the symptoms of your arthritis or help minimise its progression. It is common to be prescribed or recommended to follow more than one option.

Drug therapies may be suitable to treat the symptoms of your arthritis such as pain (analgesics or painkillers), to suppress inflammation (anti-inflammatory drugs) or to inhibit some forms of inflammatory arthritis (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs).

Physical therapies may include physiotherapy or light-exercise options such as hydrotherapy to restore or maintain function. Occupational therapy may help you to work with your arthritis and continue to achieve the activities that you need or want to maintain.

You may also be able to discuss lifestyle options including appropriate levels of activity including leisure and work activities, weight loss or even types of food that may trigger increased symptoms or arthritis.

If your arthritis becomes severe enough that despite these treatments it becomes too difficult to get on with everyday life or your pain is no longer sufficiently managed, surgery may be recommended.

What is a joint replacement?

Joint replacement is the term used for surgically removing diseased or worn out bearing material in the body known as cartilage. The purpose of a joint replacement aims to remove the pain and allow a patient to return to their normal active function.

The bearing surface is replaced with a combination of metal, ceramic and/or plastic components. These components form an implant that work with the natural tissue around the joint to hold it together.

An implant is placed within the joint to provide an articulating interface for two bones that rub together, when the two bones rub together this is where a patient will start to feel in pain this can commonly be known as ‘bone on bone’. Over time the pain will worsen which will eventually have an impact on the patients’ health; they will find that everyday tasks such as climbing the stairs will become a painful experience.

An example – A knee joint will need replacing once the Tibia and Femur meet and start rubbing together. When an implant is put into the joint, the two bones are separated artificially by two components which help the knee return to its natural level of movement.

Types of joint replacement device

A total knee replacement (TKR) is where both sides of your knee joint are replaced.  Your knee surgeon removes damaged bone and cartilage from your kneecap, thigh- and shin-bones and replaces it with an artificial knee joint made of particular metal alloys and high-grade plastics that are proven to work in the human body.

A partial (or half) knee replacement is where only one side of your knee joint is replaced. The surgery can usually be done through small incisions and recovery tends to be shorter.

Your knee specialist will help you to decide on which type of knee replacement surgery is right for you.

Joint replacement implants: What are they?

The main job of an implant is to provide an articulating surface. They are designed to work with the natural tissue and designers attempt to reproduce a motion that feels normal to the patient. More innovative designs may provide patients with a more normal freedom of movement without any compromise to its stability.

What are implants made from?

Implants are usually two or three components which work together to make an implant. The components are made of implantable grade metal alloys, ceramics or high-density polyethylene.

An example – When a knee joint is severely damaged and replaced a patient can expect to find a polyethylene insert mounted to a stem on the tibia. This provides the joint with an articulating surface, to allow the knee to move naturally.

The materials used to make up a device have been tried and tested, which have been proven to work well in the human body.


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