All knee replacement surgeries are typically performed either under general anaesthetic (where you’re put to sleep for the whole operation), or with a spinal anaesthetic or an epidural (two types of injection into your back to numb your lower body).
If you are awake for the operation, you will probably be given a sedative too.
Total knee replacement surgery
During total knee replacement surgery, your Consultant will make an incision down the front of your knee to expose the inside of the joint. Your kneecap will then be removed and held by a retractor (an instrument used to separate the edge of surgical incisions) so that they can access your knee joint, which is usually hidden behind your knee cap.
Your Consultant will then remove the damaged ends of your thigh and shin bone and measure these precisely in order to fit your prosthetic replacement. A trial joint will be placed inside your knee to test that the joint is functioning properly beforehand. After these adjustments are complete, the ends of your bone will be cleaned and your new prosthesis will be fitted.
Your thigh bone and shin bone will typically be replaced with a metal prosthesis, but this material can vary depending on which option your Consultant determines is best. The back of your kneecap may also be replaced (known as kneecap replacement), depending on your reason for having surgery.
Your wound will then closed with either stitches or clips, and a dressing will be applied to keep it clean and safe.
Partial knee replacement surgery
During partial knee replacement surgery, your Consultant will remove and replace only part of your knee. The incision made in your knee will normally be smaller than the one required for a total knee replacement.
The damaged ends of one component of your knee will be removed and measured to fit your prosthetic replacement.
This will typically be replaced with a metal prosthesis, but again the material will vary depending on which option your Consultant determines is best. Partial knee replacement surgery is generally a simpler and less invasive surgery with a faster recovery time.
For some people who have damage to only one part of their knee joint, partial knee replacement surgery will be the best option. For others, a total knee replacement operation will still be the best choice for them.
Knee replacement surgery (total or partial) typically takes one to two hours to complete.