Your doctor may have tried to reduce your knee pain with medications. You may even have had minor surgery (arthroscopy) to help treat the problem. But if this didn’t help enough, total joint replacement might be right for you. To find out, your surgeon will evaluate your knee joint. You’ll have a full exam and x-rays. When forming a treatment plan, your surgeon thinks about how surgery can best benefit you over your lifetime.

Your medical history

Your surgeon will ask you about any past medical problems. He or she is likely to ask where your knee hurts and what makes the pain worse. Tell your surgeon about any other joint problems or any injuries to your knee or leg. If surgery seems likely, be sure to mention any past problems with or bleeding.

Your physical exam

Your surgeon will fully examine your knee. He or she will feel for swelling around the joint. Nearby muscles and tendons may also be checked. The joint itself will be tested for strength, stability and range of motion. Your surgeon may also look for other problems, such as a pinched nerve, that may be causing pain in or near the knee.

The range of motion in your knee joint will be tested. Your surgeon wants to know how far the joint moves, where movement gets stiff and when you feel pain.


X-rays will be taken to provide an image of your knee joint. An x-ray may show changes in the size and shape of the joint. A buildup of bone (bone spur), a cyst, or pitting in the bone may also show up. These problems often form where cartilage has worn away. X-rays can also help your surgeon plan your knee replacement. he or she may use x-rays to decide exactly where in the bone to place the prosthesis.

Your Treatment

Your surgeon uses the results of your exam and tests to form a treatment plan that is right for you. Depending on your age and the amount of damage to your knee, surgery may offer the best answer to your problem. A total knee replacement lasts many years and it can often be repeated if the first prosthesis wears out. But if you are still fairly young, your surgeon may suggest delaying surgery. In this case, medications or arthroscopy may help control your symptoms until the time is right for joint replacement.

A prosthesis
 is not the same as a healthy body joint, but it does work well. The knee prosthesis is shaped to fit over the ends of your bones. It provides a smooth surface for easier joint movement.

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