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HealthInfo Canterbury

About hip & knee replacement

A total knee replacement showing a diseased joint, with the bones then cut and shaped, and the implants and metal in place to reform the kneeDuring a joint replacement operation (also called arthroplasty) some, or all, of a damaged or diseased joint is replaced with an artificial one. It is usually done when a joint has become very painful, is causing disability, and can no longer be managed with nonsurgical treatments. Hips and knees are the most common joints to be replaced.

The NHS website has good sections explaining hip replacement and knee replacement.

Publicly funded joint replacements

Four steps of a hip replacement. Diseased bone is cut out. Metal ball joint is inserted into femur and metal socket is put in hip bone. The two are then brought together to reform the joint.

If your doctor thinks you need a hip or knee replacement and you meet certain criteria they will refer you to an Orthopaedic surgeon. Your doctor will make sure you have tried non-surgical treatment options first as many people with hip and knee problems can manage well by making lifestyle changes.

If you don't meet the criteria for a publicly funded joint replacement, it's a good idea to keep yourself as fit and healthy as possible. If you need to lose weight, you might want to see a dietitian. Or your GP team can refer you to Appetite for Life or Green Prescription.

You may meet the criteria for a referral to the Mobility action programme designed for people with osteoarthritis. A physiotherapist can also give you an exercise and strength programme designed for your needs.

If you want surgery before it is available through the public system, talk to your GP about being referred to a private orthopaedic surgeon.

After a hip or knee replacement

The ERAS booklets on Before & after hip & knee replacement surgery have information about what to expect after a hip or knee replacement.

Your surgeon will normally see you again four to six weeks after your hip or knee replacement. By then, you should have been able to resume most of your normal daily activities including walking without a walker or crutches, and showering. If you drive, you may be back driving. If you work, you should be able to return to work.

Talk to your GP or physiotherapist if you are still having problems with daily activities, or if you want to want to restart a strenuous activity or sport. It might help if they design a specific exercise programme for you.

On the next page: Before & after hip & knee replacement surgery

Written by Burwood Orthopaedics team, Canterbury DHB. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers.Last reviewed March 2018. Last updated August 2019.

Page reference: 455008

Review key: HIHKR-48747