What is Total Knee Replacement?

September 21, 2020 | By: Raleigh Orthopaedic Team

Knee replacement surgery, also called knee arthroplasty, is a procedure where the damaged cartilage and bone are removed and replaced by new artificial joint surfaces to restore the function of the knee. The goal is to relieve the pain of arthritis and makes it possible to perform daily activities more easily.


The most common cause of chronic knee pain is arthritis. Most knee pain is caused by three kinds of arthritis: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or post-traumatic arthritis.

  • Osteoarthritis:A degenerative “wear and tear” type of arthritis where the knee joint gradually wears away. This causes bone to rub on bone and can produce bone spurs. Osteoarthritis develops slowly, and the pain increases overtime.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: A chronic disease that attacks multiple joints throughout the body. It can affect the same joint on both sides of the body. The synovial membrane that lines the knee joint begins to swell, which results in pain and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease which means the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues and damages the cartilage and ligaments while softening the bone.
  • Post-traumatic arthritis: A form of arthritis that develops after an injury to the knee, such as a broken bone, meniscal tear or ligament injury. These injuries can cause instability and additional wear of the knee joint that over time can lead to arthritis.

Total Knee Replacement Surgery

Total knee replacement surgery involves removing the diseased portion of the knee joint and resurfacing the ends of the bones with the new prosthesis. There are four parts to a knee prosthesis: the femoral part caps the end of the thigh bone, the tibial part caps the top of the shin bone, a bearing surface sits between these two components and another bearing surface sits underneath the kneecap. These parts are most commonly made of metal and plastic. The metal caps the ends of the bones and the plastic functions as the new cartilage. Implants are usually cemented to your bones.

How long does it take to recover from a total knee replacement?

Following a knee replacement, most patients begin exercising the knee hours after surgery. A physical therapist will teach you specific exercises to strengthen your leg and restore knee movement to allow walking and other normal daily activities soon after your surgery.

Resumption of normal activities after joint replacement is highly dependent on the individual patient. You should go at your own speed depending on how you feel. General guidelines suggest around three weeks after surgery; most patients are driving a car as long as the patient has stopped all pain medication. Many patients get back to activities such as walking for exercise, swimming, riding a bike and golfing by six weeks after surgery even though they still have some discomfort, increased warmth and increased swelling.

Overall, total knee surgery is one of the most effective procedures offered to patients today. It is reliable and durable and allows you to return to a better quality of life by decreasing your pain and improving your function. Many knee implants function well for over 15 years, even in young active patients. Raleigh Orthopaedic total joint surgeons ask their patients to avoid running and jumping activities after surgery as this can cause the implant to prematurely fail.

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Your well-being is important to us. Raleigh Orthopaedic is Wake County’s oldest and most experienced orthopedic practice, serving the Triangle and surrounding regions of central North Carolina since 1919. Raleigh Orthopaedic offers online scheduling so click the button below or call us at (919) 781-5600 to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our Raleigh Orthopaedic Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.