4 Types of Knee Surgery and What to Expect Before, During, and After Each Procedure

Knee pain and discomfort are common for many people of all ages. It can happen when there’s age-related structural damage, overuse, or a recent injury. Most of the time, such knee aches go away on their own with proper rest, icing, and therapy. 

However, not all knee conditions go away on their own. Some may occur as a symptom of a chronic or degenerative illness, which may require surgical interventions. Some of the telltale signs that you might need to consider knee surgery include the following:

  • Knee pain that does not get better with non-surgical treatment options.
  • Persistent, recurring, or worsening pain.
  • Mobility problems 
  • Pain that prevents you from sleeping or performing activities of daily living
  • Pain that comes with other symptoms, such as swelling and deformity.

If you are experiencing some of the above-mentioned symptoms, then you probably have a knee condition that’s beyond the capabilities of medications and therapy. Your orthopedic specialist may have already scheduled you for a specific knee procedure. 

To help you with your journey, here are five of the most common knee surgeries and how you can prepare for them. We will also provide relevant information on what to expect during and after the procedure.

How to prepare for your knee surgery?

Before any surgical procedure, doctors give patients specific medical instructions in preparation for their surgery. Patients may also organize home preparations beforehand to allow for a hassle-free recovery. Here are some of the basics that you may need to know:

  • Your orthopedic surgeon will require a series of tests (e.g., blood tests, ECG) to determine if you’re suitable for knee surgery.
  • Preoperative medical clearances from your primary care doctors (e.g., cardiologist) may also be needed.
  • You will be instructed to stop taking specific medications seven days before the surgery. This may include NSAIDs, dietary supplements, and blood thinners.
  • Cut or decrease smoking and alcohol use.
  • Take a leave of absence for at least two or more weeks from work. You’ll need this time to rest and recuperate.
  • Arrange for someone to accompany you to and from the orthopedic facility. You can also arrange for someone to help you at home during the first few days of your recovery.
  • Make sure to prepare your sleeping arrangements beforehand. If possible, it’s better to spend your sleeping, resting, and waking hours on the same floor to avoid the stairs. 
  • Organize your home to make frequently used items easily accessible for you. Remove clutter or any tripping or falling hazards.

An anesthesiologist will administer a regional block or general anesthesia before the surgery so you won’t feel any pain during the whole procedure. You’ll be connected to a patient monitor so the medical team can keep track of your vital signs.

Knee arthroscopy

A knee arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure to diagnose and treat various knee problems. It is also known as “keyhole surgery” since it only utilizes 2 to 3 tiny incisions to access the knee joint. This procedure also uses a tiny camera called an arthroscope to get a clear picture of the joint problem without needing an open incision. 

The tiny incisions will also serve as an entry point for small, specialized tools that will be used to remove, repair, or trim the damaged structures in the joint. Some of the most common conditions that are treated using arthroscopy include:

  • Torn or damaged meniscus
  • Torn or damaged anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
  • Synovitis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Synovial chondromatosis
  • Knee sepsis
  • Patellar problems

Knee arthroscopy results in less pain, fewer complications, and faster recovery. Most patients can also return to their normal activities without restrictions after full recovery. 

Knee replacement

Knee replacement or knee arthroplasty is often recommended for patients experiencing severe knee pain due to different forms of arthritis. The procedure involves removing the damaged parts of the knee joint and then placing artificial implants on top of it. There are two types of arthroplasty:

  • Partial knee replacement

-the procedure involves replacing a small part or one compartment of the knee joint with metal or plastic implants. This is commonly performed in patients with mild to moderate damage in the knee joints due to arthritis. Partial knee replacement allows patients to retain most of their healthy, natural bones.

-a total arthroplasty involves removing the damage and replacing the whole knee joint with artificial ones. Both the portion of the thighbone and shinbone will be given artificial implants to eliminate pain and discomfort during movement.

How is it performed?

Your surgeon will place your knees in a bent position and make an incision of about six to ten inches. Once the surfaces of the joint are exposed, the procedure typically involves four phases:

  • Preparing the joint surfaces - the damaged bones and cartilage at the end portion of the femur and tibia are removed. Some bones in the area will be removed so the implants will fit properly.
  • Resurface the patella - sometimes, the kneecaps may need resurfacing by cutting some of the portions underneath. This will enable the implants to fit better into the joint.
  • Attach the implants - the new metal joints or components will be placed or press-fit into the bone. It will then be cemented in place to mimic a knee joint.
  • Place the spacer - a plastic spacer will be fitted in between the two metal implants to ensure seamless and smooth gliding during movement.

Kneecap surgery

Kneecap surgery refers to a procedure used to treat problems in the kneecap or patella. This can include patellar fractures, malalignment, dislocation, or deformity. This type of surgery can be done arthroscopically or through open surgery, depending on the severity of the condition.

Some of the techniques that may be performed during a kneecap surgery include the following:

  • Lateral release - cutting the retinaculum tissue or releasing the plica band can reduce pain and improve movement.
  • Quad transfer - detaching the quadricep muscle and then reattaching it to a new place to improve balance and movement.
  • Patellar realignment - reattaching the patellar tendon to a new location to improve motion and reduce discomfort.

Complex knee surgery

Complex knee surgery is performed to treat a complex knee injury一a condition wherein two or more knee ligaments have been damaged. A multi-ligament injury rarely happens, but when they do, it can be caused by a dislocation due to a traumatic accident. 

panthers orthopedic surgeons

How long does it take to recover from knee surgery?

The length of your recovery will depend on a lot of factors, such as age, type of surgery, and severity of your condition. Procedures done arthroscopically have lesser recovery time (around six weeks to three months) than traditional open surgeries. But for most types of surgeries, it typically takes at least a year before swelling disappears and for the knees to feel normal again.

Additionally, all types of surgeries require physical therapy and rehabilitation to ensure timely recovery. It is a crucial part of one’s recovery journey since it will help the patient with the following:

  • Strengthening the knee joint and muscles
  • Improving balance, range of motion, and weight bearing.
  • Reduced pain and other symptoms
  • Enhanced mobility
  • Regaining normal knee function.
  • Enabling movement without the risk of injury.

Panther Creek UNC - Home of Superior Orthopedic Care

At the Orthopedic Surgery Center of Panther Creek, we provide high-quality orthopedic services to treat various orthopedic conditions. Our board-certified panthers orthopedic surgeons use advanced techniques and state-of-the-art technologies to ensure a proper diagnosis, treatment, and pain management.

Contact us now to learn more.

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

outpatient orthopedic surgery cary
6715 McCrimmon Parkway
Suite 205 A 
Cary, NC 27519
Monday – Friday: 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
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