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You'll usually be admitted to hospital on the day of your operation. The surgeon and anaesthetist will usually come and see you to discuss what will happen and answer any questions you have.
Most people would have seen their surgeon at a pre-assessment clinic and had the chance to discuss any relevant details of the operation.
A senior-level surgeon, consultant or registrar will perform surgery. They may be helped by junior doctors. You should be told at your pre-operative assessment who will be doing the operation. If you're not told, don't be afraid to ask.
Knee replacement surgery is usually performed either under general anaesthetic (you're asleep throughout the procedure) or under spinal or epidural anaesthetic (you're awake but have no feeling from the waist down).
The worn ends of the bones in your knee joint are removed and replaced with metal and plastic parts (a prosthesis) which have been measured to fit.
You may have either a total or a half-knee replacement (see below). This will depend on how damaged your knee is. Total knee replacements are the most common.
Read more information about what happens on the day of your operation.
In a total knee replacement (TKR), both sides of your knee joint are replaced. The procedure takes one to three hours:
Total knee replacement is a common procedure and the replacement should last around 15-20 years.
However, you're still likely to have some difficulty moving, especially bending your knee, and kneeling may be difficult because of the scar.
Read more information about recovering from knee replacement surgery.
If only one side of your knee is damaged, you may be able to have a partial (half) knee replacement (PKR). PKR is a smaller operation, which uses a smaller incision, and involves less bone being removed. It's suitable for around one in four people with osteoarthritis.
There are advantages to PKR including a shorter hospital stay and recovery period. Blood transfusions are also rarely needed. PKR often results in more natural movement in the knee and you may be able to be more active than after a total knee replacement.
Talk to your surgeon about the type of surgery they intend to use and why they think it's the best choice for you.
In some cases, there may be other types of procedure used. These are described below.
If only your kneecap is damaged, an operation called a patellofemoral replacement or patellofemoral joint arthroplasty can be performed. This involves a smaller surgery with a faster recovery time. However, the long-term results are still unclear and it's not suitable for most people with osteoarthritis.
This new technique has been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). It can be used for either total or half knee replacements, but is currently more commonly used for half knee replacements.
The surgeon makes a smaller cut than in standard knee replacement surgery. Specialised instruments are then used to manoeuvre around the tissue, rather than cutting through it. This should lead to a quicker recovery.
Read the NICE guidance on mini-incision surgery for total knee replacement.
The surgeon performs this operation using computerised images, which are generated by attaching infrared beacons to parts of your leg and to the operating tools. These are tracked on infrared cameras in the operating theatre. Results so far suggest that this may enable the new knee joint to be positioned more accurately.
Most hospitals don't yet have the equipment to do this and only around 1% of knee replacements are performed in this way.
This is a more recent advance in knee replacement surgery. A guide is created using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. This helps to create the best fitting implant for each patient.
The potential advantage of this procedure is that the implant may last longer, as the most accurate fitting is used. However, as this is a new technique, the results and long-term effects aren't fully known yet.