Knee arthroplasty, more commonly known as knee replacement surgery, helps patients with severe knee pain and damage. Most often recommended as a treatment for patients with disabling arthritis, knee replacement usually is considered when other forms of therapy no longer suffice. Other considerations include the patient’s age and activity level, because a high degree of activity can reduce the longevity of the replacement. For this reason, most knee replacement patients tend to be older and more inclined to a sedentary lifestyle.

The procedure involves replacing damaged knee cartilage and bone with an artificial material. This can be a partial or a total replacement, depending on the type and degree of damage. After the procedure, hospital staff closely monitors the patient and provides pain control. Physical therapy begins while the patient is hospitalized.

About the Author: A specialist in knee replacement surgery, Dr. Tilok Ghose studied total joint replacement at Toronto East General Hospital in Canada. He holds a Doctor of Medicine (MD) from the University of Toronto and is certified as an orthopedic surgeon through the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Board certified in the United States as well, he has earned Fellow status in the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

There are many factors to consider when preparing for knee arthroplasty or total joint replacement. While it may not come to mind initially, anesthesia is an important factor in surgery and recovery. Tilok Ghose, MD, a general orthopedic surgeon specializing in knee arthroplasty, suggests discussing anesthesia and pain relief options with your surgeon and anesthesiologist prior to surgery. Dr. Ghose answered some frequently-asked questions.

What type of anesthesia will I receive for knee arthroplasty?

Dr. Tilok Ghose: General or regional anesthesia is used for most joint replacement surgery. General anesthesia, which is either injected or inhaled, leaves the patient in a deep sleep. It affects the whole body by acting on the brain or nervous system. Regional or local anesthesia numbs a specific area of the body while the patient remains conscious.

What type of regional anesthesia is used for joint replacement surgery?

Dr. Ghose: The two most common types of regional anesthesia are spinal and epidural blocks, which are administered in the lower back.

Will I receive pain medication after surgery?

Dr. Ghose: Your doctor will help you develop a plan to manage your pain, which will enable the necessary physical therapy after surgery. This will be tailored to you depending on the type of anesthesia that you received, your medications, and any medical conditions.

Dr. Ghose advises all patients to discuss these and other questions with a physician prior to knee arthroplasty for the best possible joint replacement experience.