Having Knee- or Hip-Replacement Surgery?

Operating room procedures performed most
frequently during hospital stays in 2012

Arthroplasty, knee
700,100

Hip replacement,
total and partial

468,000

You’re in good company. Knee and hip replacements are among the most commonly performed surgeries in the US.

What is knee-replacement surgery?

Knee-replacement surgery, also called knee arthroplasty, is a procedure that removes damaged tissue from the knee joint and replaces it with artificial parts made of metal and plastic.

During knee-replacement surgery, the ends of your femur (thigh bone) and tibia (lower leg bone) are removed. A new knee joint is assembled by attaching the femoral component to your thigh bone and the tibial component to your lower leg bone, with a polyethylene insert placed between them. The patella (kneecap) is either replaced, or its underside is smoothed down and repositioned over the new knee joint.

How long does knee-replacement surgery take?

The surgery usually takes about 2 hours, after which you’ll be moved to the recovery room. Read more about recovering after knee-replacement surgery.

What is hip-replacement surgery?

Hip-replacement surgery is a procedure that removes damaged tissue from the hip joint and replaces it with artificial parts made of metal and plastic.

During hip-replacement surgery, the surgeon will make a 6- to 8-inch incision over the side of your hip to allow access to the hip joint. Then, the head of your femur (thigh bone) is removed, and the surface of the old socket in your pelvic (hip) bone is cleaned out. The new hip socket (in the form of an artificial cup) is placed in your hip bone, and the head of your thigh bone is implanted with an artificial stem and ball unit. The socket and ball are then connected. After surgery, you will be moved to the recovery room. Read more about recovering after hip-replacement surgery.

What are the benefits of knee- and hip-replacement surgery?

Most people choose to have knee- or hip-replacement surgery when certain conditions have caused enough damage to the knee or hip joint to result in severe pain and difficulty moving around normally. If pain medication and other treatments have not helped you, your healthcare professional may recommend knee- or hip-replacement surgery to relieve the pain and improve your mobility.

Getting cleared for surgery

Once you and your surgeon decide that knee- or hip-replacement surgery is an option for you, you will be tested to make sure you are healthy enough to have the procedure and avoid any complications. These tests may include:

  • A blood test
  • A urine test
  • X-rays or bone scans
  • A heart rhythm test

Risks of surgery: Blood clots

There is a risk of developing blood clots after surgery. This is largely due to being stuck in bed during recovery. When you’re not moving around as much, your circulation slows and blood has a tendency to form clots. This is why your healthcare professional may prescribe a blood thinner to help reduce your risk of getting a blood clot. Learn more about why blood clots form after surgery and what you can do to prevent them.

There are also a few other things to consider before, during, and after your surgery. Here’s a handy checklist to help you prepare.