- What is minimally invasive total knee replacement?
- What happens during outpatient total knee replacement surgery?
- What is recovery like after a total knee replacement?
Tracy Jesse underwent a total knee replacement with Travis Clegg, M.D., board-certified orthopedic surgeon, and three months later she says, “I’m feeling great.”
What’s it like to have a minimally invasive total knee replacement with Dr. Clegg? Tracy says, “I feel like, after this surgery, I’m living life again.”
What is Minimally Invasive Total Knee Replacement?
When your knee joint is damaged, orthopedic surgeons can make an incision in the knee, and using small instruments, replace the joint with an artificial prosthesis to reduce pain and restore knee function. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that “Total knee replacements are one of the most successful procedures in all of medicine.” There are nearly 800,000 of these procedures done each year in the United States.
The knee is a complex, key structure that is crucial to human mobility. The joint consists of the lower end of the thigh bone, or femur; the upper end of the shinbone, or tibia; and the kneecap or patella. The ends of each of these bones are covered by cartilage, which is a shock absorber of sorts that prevents the bones from rubbing together, and ligaments that ensure smooth range of motion within the joint. Within the knee are menisci that soften the impact of your daily activities like running, climbing stairs, squatting, and walking. Much of the joint architecture is also covered by a thin synovial membrane to lubricate the cartilage.
In a healthy knee, this all works together beautifully. But when the knee is damaged or worn out, problems arise. Range of motion and agility is lost and the knees can become very painful. Some of the most common reasons for knee problems that lead to the need for knee replacement include:
- Osteoarthritis usually forms as people age and the knee joint simply wears out
- Rheumatoid arthritis causes the synovial membrane to inflame, causing pain and stiffness
- Post-traumatic arthritis forms after a serious knee injury, and can limit joint function
Tracy, like a lot of people, was very active in her youth. She said, “I had really bad knees most of my life. I played high school sports.” Like a lot of student-athletes, Tracy experienced the pain of knee injuries dating back 30 years or more.
Ironically, it was Tracy’s right knee that suffered the most abuse on the sporting field so she ended up relying heavily on her left knee to compensate for the injuries she experienced. Ultimately it was that left knee that wore out first and had to be replaced.
What Happens During Outpatient Total Knee Replacement Surgery?
Minimally invasive outpatient total knee replacement is designed to get you home the same day. Small incisions are made in the knee joint, as the surgeon carefully replaces the worn-out joint with a new artificial joint.
Below are the typical steps to outpatient knee replacement surgery, which is performed under general or spinal anesthesia:
- Prepare the damaged bone and cartilage surfaces for the implant
- Position the metal implant to recreate the joint surface
- Insert a spacer between the components to create a smooth gliding surface
All of these steps can be accomplished through small incisions in the knee.
Patients and doctors refer to minimally invasive total knee replacement as outpatient knee replacement. These are different names for the same approach:
- Minimally invasive means that, unlike traditional surgery with very large incisions which takes longer to heal, the surgeon makes smaller incisions. This muscle-sparing procedure is done without cutting through any of the muscle around the knee.
- Outpatient refers to the fact that the patient is up and walking the same day, leaving the surgery center on the same day with no hospital visits at all.
The benefits of minimally invasive approaches, no matter which phrase you use to describe the surgery, are profound and include smaller incisions, less pain, faster recovery, and minimal scarring compared to the traditional total knee replacement procedure.
Tracy commented on how shocked she was after the surgery, stating, “I didn’t expect to be feeling that good so quickly.”
What is Recovery Like After a Total Knee Replacement?
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says, “Most people who have total knee replacement surgery experience a dramatic reduction of knee pain and a significant improvement in the ability to perform common activities of daily living.
That was exactly the experience of Tracy Jesse. Dr. Clegg commented on Tracy’s surgery, saying, “We were able to do the knee replacement and I remember a couple of hours after the surgery she was up cruising the hall and doing really well.”
It’s true; patients who undergo minimally invasive total knee replacement can be up and walking the same day of the surgery with the aid of a walker or crutches. Then the patient undergoes outpatient physical therapy that includes:
- Knee strengthening exercises
- Range of motion exercises
- Help with using canes, crutches, or other assisted walking devices
Tracy, who had struggled with knee pain and a loss of mobility for years before undergoing surgery, said “The biggest benefit was that I am able to get back to a normal lifestyle again.”
Throughout the process of surgery and rehabilitation, you will be under the watchful eye of your clinical care team. In Tracy’s case, Dr. Clegg personally kept in close contact with her.
“Four days after the procedure he also called me just to see how I was doing. At that point, I was already in less pain,” she remembers. “Honestly, I was just overwhelmed when I talked to him; I just couldn’t thank him enough.”
Tracy’s experience is typical for those that choose Travis Clegg, M.D. Orthopedic Surgery. While not all patients can qualify for knee replacement surgery as an outpatient, it’s worth the discussion with Dr. Clegg and his team to determine if it’s a good fit.
When asked if she had any regrets about her surgery, Tracy said “I was just very impressed. I would definitely recommend Dr. Clegg to other people. I feel like he had the patient’s best interests at heart. I honestly couldn’t be happier.”