Total knee replacements -- or total knee arthroplasties (TKA) have become one of the most performed orthopedic surgeries in the world. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, in 2017, more than 754,000 knee replacements were performed in the United States. In the PT clinic I treat as many patients after total knee replacements as any other orthopedic surgery. In orthopedic healthcare, total knee replacements are widely regarded as one of the most successful surgeries. The AAOS notes that over 90 percent of replacement knees are still functioning after 15 years.
Knee replacements are most often done when a person’s knee joint develops severe arthritis. This is when the cartilage in the knee joint -- at the bottom of the femur (“thigh bone”) and the top of the tibia (“shin bone”) -- degrades and the joint becomes painful and usually inflamed. Cartilage acts as padding in the knee joint and to decrease friction as the knee moves. When a person loses most of the cartilage in the knee this can be described as “bone on bone” arthritis and can require a TKA. Most of the time this loss of cartilage is due to wear and tear and is described as osteoarthritis. In some cases this can be caused by an inflammatory condition called rheumatoid arthritis or trauma like a motor vehicle accident.
Knee replacement surgery was first performed in 1968. Since then, improvements in surgical materials and techniques have greatly increased its effectiveness. Recently more and more surgeons are utilizing robotic guided surgical techniques and generally with excellent outcomes.