In total knee replacement surgery, the damaged bone surfaces and cartilage are removed and replaced with artificial surfaces made of metal and a plastic material. These artificial parts, called implants or prostheses, restore the alignment and function of your knee.
Before your surgery, you will undergo a physical exam and complete several tests to rule out any medical problems that could interfere with the procedure.
Two to three weeks before your surgery, you will have an appointment at the Prepare Clinic. During this appointment, you'll meet with an anesthesiologist or nurse practitioner to review your medical history, complete pre-surgery tests such as a chest X-ray and blood tests, and sign surgery and blood transfusion consent forms.
On the day of your surgery, please arrive two hours before the start of the procedure to allow time for the admissions process and to meet with your anesthesiologist.
After you're admitted to the hospital, you'll move to the pre-operative area where you'll meet an anesthesiologist. The most common type of anesthesia is called general anesthesia, which is administered intravenously or directly into a vein. General anesthesia will keep you in a "sleep" or unconscious state during the entire operation.
Your anesthesiologist also may discuss the option of an epidural or spinal injection to block pain. Your anesthesiologist will discuss your options before your surgery.
Our experts are trained in computer-assisted orthopedic surgery, which uses special cameras and imaging tools to project images of the operative area onto a television screen. On-screen prompts help guide surgeons to the ideal alignment of the implant and provide real-time views of the surgical site.
Typically, a total knee replacement takes about two hours.
Patients usually stay in the hospital for three to four days after surgery, depending on the course of recovery.
The day after your surgery, a physical therapist will teach you exercises to regain full leg and knee movement. During your hospital stay, you’ll attend physical therapy one to two times a day.
Your doctor may recommend a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine that bends and straightens your knee. Special elastic stockings may be provided to help reduce swelling. An anticoagulant medication, such as lovenox, also may be administered to help circulation and prevent blood clots.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
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Among the top hospitals in the nation
One of the nation's best for orthopedic care
Rated high-performing hospital for knee replacement