knee replacement

Facts about knee replacements

According to data from the UK National Joint Registry, almost 80,000 total knee replacements are performed every year. The demand for total knee replacements increases every year and is set to significantly outstrip the demand for total hip replacements in the future. It has been estimated that the number of total knee replacements performed will increase by 200% in the next ten years.

When is a knee replacement needed

A knee replacement is major surgery and will usually only be performed if all other treatments such as physiotherapy or steroid injections, have not helped to reduce the pain or improve mobility. The most common reason for knee replacement surgery is osteoarthritis.

Other conditions that may cause knee damage include:

• knee injury
• knee deformity with pain and loss of cartilage
• gout
• rheumatoid arthritis

There are other things to be taken into consideration such as, the patient will need to be well enough to withstand the major operation as well as the recovery process.

How to Prepare for knee replacement surgery

Before you go into hospital, you will need to find out as much as you can about what is involved. Your hospital should provide written information or useful web site material. Try to remain as active as possible with gentle walking or swimming being beneficial.

After Surgery

You will have a large dressing on your knee to protect your wound. The hospital will provide the appropriate pain relief. You will usually be in hospital for three to five days, however, this can vary depending on the individual and type of surgery being carried out.

How soon will I be up and about?

Generally, you’ll be helped to stand within 12-24 hours after your operation and will be helped to walk as soon as possible. You will usually be provided with a walking frame or crutches. Most people are able to walk independently with sticks after about a week but again this can vary depending on the individual.
A hospital physiotherapist will teach you exercises to help strengthen your knee. You can usually begin these the day after your operation. It’s important to follow the physiotherapist’s advice to avoid complications or dislocation of your new joint.

Recovering at home

When you go home you will probably need help for a week or so, or you may be eligible for home help. There are many aids available that may help you around the house, the hospital should be able to advice. It is normal to experience discomfort while walking and exercising, and some peoples legs and feet may be swollen. It is essential that you continue with the exercises given to you by the physiotherapist. This is an essential part of your recovery. Your rehabilitation will be monitored by your physiotherapist.

Looking after your new knee

• Use your walking aids but aim to gradually decrease the amount you rely on them as your leg feels stronger
• Do not put a pillow underneath your knee when sleeping as this can result in a permanently bent knee
• Avoid twisting at your knee
• Do not kneel on your operated knee until your surgeon says you can
• Raise your leg when sitting and use ice packs to help with any swelling


The aim of a knee replacement surgery is to relieve pain, improve mobility and improve function. Patients regain their independence, and are able to give up taking any medication for pain. This is clearly achieved in the vast majority of patients, however, as with any operation there are risks as well as benefits.