Important Things To Know Before Getting a Knee Replacement Surgery

Knee replacement surgery can be a life-altering procedure for individuals suffering from chronic knee pain and stiffness. However, it’s a significant decision, and understanding what to expect is crucial. This article explores five key points you should consider before undergoing knee replacement surgery.

1. Bone-on-Bone Friction: The Decisive Factor

The presence of bone-on-bone friction in the knee joint is the primary reason for considering knee replacement surgery. This condition arises when the cartilage, the smooth, gliding surface between your bones, wears down completely. A standing X-ray can definitively diagnose bone-on-bone contact. If your X-ray shows some remaining cartilage, alternative treatments like exercise therapy, cartilage-supporting supplements, or injections might be more appropriate to manage your pain and improve function.

2. Unicompartmental vs. Full Knee Replacement: Understanding Your Options

Not all knee replacements involve replacing the entire joint. If the bone-on-bone wear is confined to a single compartment of your knee (medial, lateral, or patellofemoral), a unicompartmental knee replacement might be a better option. This minimally invasive procedure replaces only the damaged portion of the joint, preserving the healthy parts. Studies have shown that unicompartmental knee replacements lead to better long-term outcomes, including a more natural feeling knee with improved function and range of motion compared to a full knee replacement.

3. Realistic Expectations: Not Everyone Achieves Perfect Results

It’s important to understand that even with successful surgery, some patients (around 15%) who undergo total knee replacement may experience lingering discomfort or dissatisfaction after the procedure. This discomfort can arise from scar tissue formation, the body’s reaction to the implant, or other factors. While uncommon, it’s a possibility to consider during your decision-making process.

4. Implant Specifications: Focusing on What Matters

The specific features of the prosthetic implant used in your surgery, like whether it allows retention of the cruciate ligaments or uses bone cement for fixation, are generally less critical in terms of long-term outcomes. Extensive clinical studies have shown minimal difference in results based on these features. However, the material of the implant becomes important if you have a metal allergy. In such cases, a prosthesis made of titanium or even better, oxinium, a nickel-free material with minimal allergy risk, is recommended.

5. Robot-Assisted Surgery: A Promising Technological Advance

Technological advancements are continuously shaping the landscape of orthopedic surgery. Mako robotic knee replacement is a minimally invasive technique that utilizes a robotic arm to assist the surgeon during unicompartmental knee replacement. Studies have shown that mako robotic knee replacement offers several advantages, including improved accuracy in implant positioning and potentially faster recovery times compared to traditional surgical techniques. While robotic technology is still evolving, it offers a promising option for unicompartmental knee replacement patients.

For total knee replacement, the picture is less clear. As of today, clinical studies haven’t shown a significant difference in outcomes between robotic-assisted and traditional total knee replacement surgery. However, with ongoing advancements in robotic technology, this might change in the future, potentially leading to improved outcomes for total knee replacements as well.

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Choosing the Right Doctor and Facility

Selecting a qualified and experienced orthopedic surgeon specializing in knee replacements is crucial. Look for a surgeon who has a proven track record of success and is up-to-date on the latest surgical techniques, including minimally invasive options like unicompartmental knee replacement and mako robotic surgery. The facility where you undergo surgery is also important. Choose a center with a high volume of knee replacement surgeries and a dedicated team of specialists, including nurses, physical therapists, and pain management experts. This multidisciplinary approach ensures you receive the best possible care throughout your surgical journey.


Knee replacement surgery can significantly improve your quality of life by alleviating chronic knee pain and restoring mobility. By understanding the key points discussed in this article, such as the presence of bone-on-bone friction, the potential benefits of unicompartmental knee replacement, and the evolving role of robotic-assisted surgery, you can make an informed decision about whether knee replacement is right for you. Remember, open communication with your doctor and a realistic understanding of the procedure are key to a successful outcome and a return to an active life.

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