Accelerate Physical Therapy

Knee Replacement Surgery – Evolving over Time

Knee Replacement Surgery – Evolving over Time

If you are facing knee replacement, then you might be a little apprehensive about it. That would be an appropriate reaction, since it’s a surgery and recovery that comes with an unpleasant reputation. However, it’s not your grandma’s surgery any more.

There have been tremendous strides in improving technology and technique, which makes it possible for a less invasive ordeal. It also helps in recovery time, getting you back on your feet and into your normal…or much improved routine quicker than ever.

First, let’s take a look at what knee replacement is, and why it might be a necessary procedure for you to consider.

Why Consider Knee Replacement?

Also called knee arthroplasty, knee replacement is a surgical procedure that will replace the parts of your knee that are weight-bearing. The goal is to relieve the majority of pain or disability that occurs through either age or disease such as arthritis. The most common are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid, or psoriatic arthritis.

You could also be considering knee replacement surgery if you are experiencing debilitating conditions and pain caused by cartilage defects, or trauma induced conditions such as ligament and meniscus tears.

In the Beginning

Going all the way back to the 1800’s, a German surgeon by the name of Theophilus Gluck performed the first knee replacement surgery. He experimented with raw materials such as fat, muscle, and even a pig bladder to provide some cushion to the joint. Fortunately, the industry has come a long way in utilizing more durable material, as well as keeping up with technology.

Gluck eventually moved on to working with ivory and plaster. But, no significant improvement came after that until the 1970’s when innovators introduced plastic as an alternative to form a more realistic joint alternative, and became known as a mobile-bearing knee replacement. To this day, it is still being tweaked and improved as materials and technology advance over time.

Surgery and prognosis has seen great improvement over the past 3 decades. Today, knee replacements that utilize mobile-bearing plastic can imitate a knee’s natural mechanics. In addition, the track record of these replacements has improved considerably when it comes to function and longevity.

Perhaps the biggest advance in recent years is the surgery itself.

Advancements in Surgery Technique

Through research and advancement in technology, the overwhelming incision and scar of the past is rarely seen these days. Years ago, the incision could be up to a foot long, leading to immense pain and a very long recovery time, matching the scar it would leave in its wake.

Fortunately, it started to improve in the 1990’s and hasn’t stopped yet.

  • Minimally Invasive Techniques – Starting in the late 1990’s, surgeons began to use far less invasive procedures to perform a knee replacement. These new procedures took the incision that was up to a foot long in the past, to a minimal 3 to 5 inches today. Prior to this, the cut was typically made down the front of the knee and leg. This would cause the muscle a great deal of trauma, leading to a much longer recovery period. The cut has even been done on the side of the knee, while the kneecap is literally pushed out of the way to gain access to the area they are working on during surgery. Whether it’s performed in the front, or the side, recovery time has decreased as a result of it being less invasive, as well as fewer complications.
  • Robotic Knee Replacement – In just the past decade, robotics have entered the picture in knee replacement. Using a series of CT scans, they are able to create customized plans for individual knee replacements, all based on a patient’s unique situation and individual needs. A computer assists the surgeon in planning a custom program, while robotic instruments are utilized to not only create the incision, but also accurately position the implant. This is far more precise than a surgeon’s eye, which helps elude common problems and complications of the past.

As technology continues to grow and improve most everything around us, it will also continue to contribute in modern medicine. This has allowed for much quicker recovery, so people can resume their daily activities after reasonable post-operative rehabilitation.

What to Expect Post-Surgery

However as far as surgery has come over the past few years, it’s still just the first step in getting your knee back in shape. There is a significant amount of rehabilitation and exercise in your near future, if you have a knee replacement surgery. In fact, you will most likely be visited the very next day by a Physical Therapist. Even though you might feel they are the arch enemy at first, you will quickly see that their role in getting you back on your feet is parallel to that of the surgeon.

A Physical Therapist will make a rehabilitation plan for your individual needs, and will have you back on your feet much quicker than without it. You will experience a gradual increase in walking to gain mobility, as well as strength exercises to strengthen your knee.

If all goes well and the plan is implemented faithfully, most people can get back to a basic daily routine…and a better quality of life, within 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. In time, adding more activity to your day is also likely. Just make sure you talk honestly with your doctor and Physical Therapist on what your limitations are and a time frame for resuming certain activities.

As you can see, knee replacement surgery has come a very long way over the decades. While it’s still not a trip to your favorite resort, it should also no longer be the nightmare recovery it once was.