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Doctor grinding knuckles imitating knee joint

Knee replacement surgery has become a common treatment option for people with aging, arthritic or injured knees. Even though it's common, the decision to have a knee replacement is a very personal one and requires the right team of orthopaedic knee surgeons to get you back to your daily life.

At Penn Medicine, our entire team of orthopaedic specialists works together across multiple disciplines to ensure a comprehensive, seamless continuum of care for individuals undergoing knee replacement procedures. Our surgeons not only have a history of success in the Philadelphia region, but also shape the the joint replacement field standards used by surgeons across the globe, helping more people get back to living pain free.

Why choose Penn Orthopaedics for knee replacement?

If you're facing the possibility of having a knee replacement, there are many reasons to choose our Joint Replacement Program for your treatment and care. We have performed thousands of joint replacements in an extremely safe and effective manner with very low risk of complications. We treat the "whole" individual, by fostering a close relationship with our patients with input from many different specialists to address your specific needs. Additionally, we believe in engaging in a shared decision-making process. We value your input and collaboration, and together we will arrive at the best option for treatment and rehabilitation.

Our team of experts will review your case in detail at weekly orthopaedic committees and create customized treatment plans. If possible, we will try conservative methods first, such as injections or physical therapy, to see if your knee improves. If these methods do not provide relief, we'll discuss the need for a partial or total knee replacement and develop a personalized surgical and rehabilitation plan.

If your case is complex, we have the capability of creating a 3-D model of your knees to strategize every part of your surgery. We are also experts in performing minimally invasive knee replacement surgery, which is different from traditional replacement because these techniques have evolved to cause less damage to the tissue.

Top reasons for considering a knee replacement:

  • Pain that is debilitating and interferes with normal activities. Arthritis, cartilage damage, muscle imbalance and tendonitis are a few conditions that cause severe pain in the knees.
  • Loss of mobility when you cannot move your knee due to a traumatic injury or a congenital deformity. Knee tightness can also be caused by medical conditions such as gout, arthritis, an infection or by bowing in or out.
  • Chronic knee inflammation and swelling that does not improve with rest or medications.

Diagnosing Your Knees

History and examination continue to be the mainstay of diagnosis. Through a simple discussion and examination, along with imaging, Penn Medicine orthopaedic surgeons are able to determine if you are a candidate for a knee replacement. Once it has been determined that knee replacement is an option, open communication and keeping your best interests in mind will remain at the core of our treatment approach. Because we engage in a shared decision-making process, we take into account your personal needs and goals when considering your treatment plan — including whether or not knee replacement surgery is the right option for you.

Digital imaging for knees

A simple X-ray can show us the information we need to determine or corroborate your history and physical findings. We are able to see characteristics of any type of arthritis and injury to your knee on an X-ray. We can also see joint space narrowing, cysts, osteophytes or deformities. If an X-ray does not show the source of the problem, then we'll use advanced imagery such as MRI or CAT scan.

Types of Knee Replacement Surgery

What is total knee replacement?

The knee has three compartments:

  • The medial compartment (inside of the knee)
  • The lateral compartment (outside of the knee)
  • The patellofemoral compartment (in front of the knee)

If your knee joint damage — whether from arthritis, a fracture or other conditions — involves several areas of the knee, your surgeon may recommend a total knee replacement.

A total knee replacement requires removing all three compartments of the knee and the ligaments and replacing them with an artificial joint made of metal alloys, high-grade plastics and polymers. This combination of metal-on-plastic creates a knee joint of minimal friction and less wear and tear.

The typical lifespan of an artificial knee joint can be 20 years or more.

What is partial knee replacement?

A partial knee (unicompartmental) replacement replaces only the affected compartment of the knee while preserving the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments.

If damage to your knee is only in one area of the joint, a partial knee replacement may be an option. Partial knee replacements work best for non-degenerative arthritis injuries, and surgeons typically reserve this option for more active patients.

In a partial knee replacement, there is less bone and soft tissue dissection and fewer risks of complications. However, because partial knee replacement retains most of the knee tissue, you may be susceptible to meniscal tears and progression of arthritis in the future.

What if I need a revision after receiving a knee replacement?

We perform revisions to knee replacements that patients received in other facilities that did not last as long as expected.

The typical lifespan of an artificial knee joint is about 20 years, but if the knee replacement is performed by a less experienced surgeon, it may be shorter. Over that time period, the artificial knee joint may become damaged due to infection or normal wear and tear, causing it to fit less securely or function less effectively.

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