The field of orthopedics is constantly researching new techniques to help make joint replacement surgery less painful and to help patients recover more quickly. One of the most talked about orthopedic advancements is minimally invasive joint replacement, also called mini-incision joint replacement.
A traditional total knee replacement requires an incision between 6 to 8 inches long. The patient’s size and the extent of the joint’s damage can sometimes determine the length of the incision. The incision allows the surgeon to fully visualize the joint, the diseased tissue, and the implants.
Minimally invasive total knee replacement may be performed through an approximately 4 inch incision, half the length of a typical knee replacement incision. Surgeons can perform surgery through such a short incision because they use instruments specifically designed to move around soft tissue, rather than cut through it.
It is important to remember that minimally invasive joint replacement is a technique, not an implant. The technique allows your surgeon to lengthen the incision should it become necessary during surgery. Your surgeon will select the implant that they feel will best treat your specific condition.
Benefits of Minimally Invasive Total Knee Replacement
- Shorter hospital stay
- Quicker mobilization
- Accelerated recovery process
- Healthy tissues and muscles are preserved
- Reduced blood loss
- Less scar tissue
Today’s implants offer exceptional outcomes, but traditional surgical techniques require a long and involved physical recovery. Surgeons understand that patients desire to heal quickly so they can return to a more active and enjoyable lifestyle.
While uncommon, complications can occur during and after surgery. Some complications include infection, blood clots, implant breakage, malalignment, and premature wear. Although implant surgery is extremely successful in most cases, some patients still experience stiffness and pain. No implant will last forever and factors such as the patient’s post-surgical activities and weight can affect longevity. Be sure to discuss these and other risks with your surgeon.
Preparing for Surgery
Patients should begin preoperative strengthening exercises to help them prepare for surgery and their recovery. Patients may be given a comprehensive nutrition plan to help ensure optimum health before surgery.
There are many things that your surgeon may do to minimize the potential for complications. Your surgeon may have you see a medical physician before surgery to obtain tests. You may also need to have your dental work up to date and may be shown how to prepare your home to avoid falls.
Surgeons may implement a unique pain program during surgery that is designed to dramatically reduce a patient’s postoperative pain. Reducing patient’s postoperative pain is critical to helping them begin their postoperative rehabilitation and to helping them make a rapid recovery.
After surgery, you probably will be hospitalized for 2 to 3 days. During this time, you will receive pain medication and begin physical therapy. It is important to start moving your new knee as soon as possible after surgery to promote blood flow, to regain knee motion, and to facilitate the recovery process. You should be out of bed and walking with crutches or a walker within 24 hours of your surgery.
Before you leave the hospital, your therapist will show you a variety of exercises designed to help you regain mobility and strength in your knee. You should be able to perform these exercises on your own at home. You will be shown how to safely climb and descend stairs, how to get into and out of a seated position, and how to care for your knee once you return home.
At home, it is important to continue with your exercises as your physician has instructed. It is a good idea to enlist the help of friends or family to help you once you do return home.
Recovery after minimally invasive knee replacement takes approximately half as long as traditional total knee replacement. Every person’s recovery time will vary, but most people should be able to drive after 2 weeks, garden after 3 to 4 weeks, and golf about 6 to 8 weeks after surgery. Your surgeon will tell you when you can return to these activities and will also tell you which activities to avoid.
You will typically not be allowed to participate in high-impact activities or contact sports. These types of activities place extreme pressure on the knee joint, which could lead to complications.
All patient education materials are provided by OrthoPatientEd.com and have been reviewed by our Advisory Board of leading Orthopedic Surgeons to ensure accuracy. All materials are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from your orthopedic surgeon. Any medical decisions should be made after consulting a qualified physician. This site includes links to other web sites. OrthoPatientEd.com takes no responsibility for the content or information contained in the linked sites.