Arthroscopic knee surgery was first performed in the US in 1968. It has since proved to be one of the most important surgical procedures in orthopedics of the 20th century and, with major advances in surgical techniques and materials, has become very highly effective. In the US there are over three hundred thousand knee operations performed annually generally with impressive results.
Arthroscopic knee surgery is knee joint replacement surgery. Basically there are two types of arthroscopic knee procedures:
- Total joint arthroplasty where both sides (shinbone and femur) of the knee joint are replaced and
- Hemiarthroplasty or partial knee replacement in which only one side of the knee joint is replaced.
Arthroscopic knee surgery is used to replace a damaged or diseased knee joint with an artificial joint. This prosthesis is made from surgical grade plastics and metal alloys and is designed to work in the same way as bone and cartilage does and to behave in the same way as a healthy joint.
In this surgery, the orthopedic surgeon will remove the damaged or diseased parts of the bones that make up the knee joint. In a healthy knee joint the surfaces of these bones rub together using cartilage to act as the buffer between them. In total knee replacement surgery the surgeon will remove the damaged surfaces of the three bones that rub together (the kneecap or patella, the thighbone or femur and the shinbone or tibia) and replace them the plastic or metal prostheses. . The surgery usually takes between 1 and 2 hours.
The components used in knee joint replacement surgery are designed to match the original bones that they replace. The section of the femur or thighbone that is replaced is made of rounded metal alloy that is designed to closely match the curve of the natural femur. A very smooth long wearing polyethylene plastic is used to replace the surface of the shinbone and act as knee cartilage. This same material is used to replace the cartilage on the back of the kneecap.
The ultimate aim of this surgery is to replace the painful surfaces of the knee joint with new surfaces made from artificial materials. The knee joint is then no longer painful and mobility is increased. An added benefit is that joint deformities can sometimes also be corrected at the same time.
Knee surgery recovery is relatively quick and knee joint rehabilitation commences almost immediately after the orthopedic knee surgery. Walking with the aid of crutches or a walker and knee physical therapy usually start within 24 hours of the operation and can take several weeks. Generally many normal activities like climbing stairs and getting in and out of chairs can be attempted within a few days. Knee replacement exercises are an important part of rehabilitation.
Orthopedic knee replacement surgery has a success rate of up to 95% with most knee implants functioning well for many years after surgery. Most knee implants should last for about 15 years with moderate levels of activity. However, continual strenuous activity can reduce the life of the knee implant.