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Knee replacement


About knee replacement

Your knee is the largest joint in your body. It is located where the thigh bone (femur) meets your shinbone (tibia). The knee is covered by a bony plate called the kneecap (patella). Under the patella, the bones are coated with a protective layer of cartilage. Between the femur and tibia are the menisci, which act as cushioning pads.

Knee replacement surgery, sometimes called total knee replacement, involves replacing the ends of your thighbone and shinbone with artificial (prosthetic) implants.It is carried out when you have chronic knee pain that cannot be relieved with medication and continues to affect your life.

The most common cause of chronic knee pain is arthritis, which can develop due to ageing (osteoathritis), inflammatory disease (rheumatoid arthtitis) or injury (post-traumatic arthritis).

How can I prepare for knee replacement?

Before surgery, your doctor will evaluate you to ensure that you are healthy enough to undergo the procedure and that it is right for you. This will involve a physical examination to assess your range of motion in your knee and how stable it is. Your doctor may recommend an X-ray in order to reveal how damaged your knee is.

If you decide to have the surgery, you can prepare to make your recovery easier. You will need to use crutches or a walker to move around, so you should consider arranging for a friend, a family member or a carer to help you with tasks such as shopping, bathing and laundry during this time.

You can also prepare by making changes to your home to help during recovery. Useful modifications include handrails for your bath or shower, handrails on staircases and making sure there are no loose carpets or wires that you might trip on. 

What happens during my treatment?

Knee replacement surgery is carried out under a general anaesthetic, which means you will not be awake during the procedure.

During a knee replacement, your doctor will remove any damaged bone and cartilage at the ends of your shinbone and thighbone. He or she will then affix the prosthetic implants in place.The whole procedure usually takes one to two hours.

Are there any complications or risks with knee replacement?

Like any procedure, surgery for a knee replacement carries some risks, including infection, bleeding and nerve damage. However, serious complications happen in less than 2% of patients. 

Developing a blood clot is also a complication of knee replacement surgery.These can be prevented through leg compression stockings, blood thinning medications and ensuring that your leg is raised every now and then. Talk to your doctor for more information about the risks involved with your procedure.

Recovering from knee replacement

You will usually stay in hospital for a few days after the operation.Your doctor will encourage you to stand up and walk with the help of crutches or a walker as soon as possible.

When you go home, your doctor will give you physical therapy exercises to carry out. These will help strengthen your knee and legs. How fast you recover can depend on how well you follow these and other directions from your doctor.

Talk to your doctor about what steps you can take to help you recover as best as possible.

How much does knee replacement cost?

For a guide to what you could pay for your treatment, click here.

What to do now

Once you have decided that you would like to be treated at an HCA hospital, or would like further information, here's what to do next:

  1. Call one of our advisors on + 44 (0) 20 7079 4399 or complete our web enquiry form.
  2. Check with your insurance company that your policy covers your treatment, and obtain authorisation.
  3. Visit or call your GP to obtain a referral letter and then call us to make an appointment to visit your chosen consultant and hospital at a time to suit you.
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