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Why have a knee replacement?
Knee replacement is performed to relieve knee pain after all other resources have been utilized. Knee pain is often an effect of osteoarthritis, but in many cases, it can be genetics, a previous trauma to the knee, leg alignment problems or metabolic conditions. Rheumatoid arthritis destroys cartilage, which can cause severe knee pain.
Most doctors will try options other than total knee replacement before they perform the surgery. Knee surgery requires the patient to be off his or her feet for weeks and also requires months of physical therapy.
What is a knee replacement?
When a patient has a total knee replacement, the worn out part of the knee is resurfaced, making the cartilage smooth so the knee operates freely and without pain. The thigh and leg bones (femur and tibia) are also resurfaced. In the case of leg misalignment, the leg is also re-aligned. The new surface of the femur is metallic. The new surface of the tibia may be polyethylene or may have a metallic base with a polyethylene surface.
Infection in total knee replacement surgeries
While total knee replacement infection is rare, it does happen. The patient is generally given antibiotics before and after the surgery in order to reduce the incidence of total knee replacement infection. Care in the operating room also helps to prevent infection.
Infections are generally treated with irrigation and debridement of the knee (washing out the knee joint), but in some cases, the new knee will need to be removed and another new knee reinserted. Intravenous antibiotics are also given for knee replacement infections.
Always make sure the knee replacement surgeon knows of any medical problems prior to scheduling a knee surgery—certain medical problems cause a higher risk of knee replacement infection.