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What Is Involved in Kneecap Replacement Surgery?

A man with a twisted kneecap.
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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2014
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Kneecap replacement surgery is a relatively common medical procedure. This type of surgery may be indicated in cases of a fractured kneecap or other direct injury to the area. Natural disease processes such as arthritis or cancer may also lead to the necessity of kneecap replacement surgery. This procedure involves the removal of part or all of the kneecap and the addition of a prosthetic kneecap. The patient is usually hospitalized for several days following the surgery, and complete recovery may take several months.

A general anesthetic is usually given during kneecap replacement surgery. This means that the patient is completely sedated and is not aware of the surgical procedure as it happens. In some cases, a local anesthetic may be given instead. This allows the patient to be awake during the procedure without experiencing any pain or discomfort.

Once the patient has received the chosen form of anesthesia, kneecap replacement surgery will begin. The surgeon will make an incision at the front of the kneecap. Depending on the situation, all or part of the kneecap is then removed. Surrounding muscles and tendons may then be clipped before the prostheic kneecap is inserted into the knee. The muscles and tendons are then reconnected to each,and the skin of the knee is closed with stitches or staples.

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Following kneecap replacement surgery, the patient is usually kept in the hospital for several days. This allows the medial team to watch for potential complications such as the development of blood clots and gives the patient time to start healing from the procedure while learning how to function with the newly implanted prosthetic kneecap.

Pain medications will be given for several days following kneecap replacement surgery. Some patients may need to use prescription medications for a while after returning home as well. Over-the-counter medications may be used as the severity of the pain begins to decline. Physical therapy is also an important part of recovery following kneecap replacement surgery. This will help to stretch the muscles, making movement easier and more comfortable for the patient.

Many patients will need to use supportive devices such as crutches or canes following surgery. Normal activity may be resumed slowly as tolerated by the patient. Recovery time varies for each individual but generally takes several months. Any questions or concerns about the healing process or approved activities following surgery should be discussed with a doctor.

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