Knee Replacement Surgery

Total knee replacement surgery generally takes about 2 hours to perform. The procedure involves removing damaged bone, tissue, and knee cartilage and fitting these three replacement pieces:

  • Femoral component (metal piece that attaches to the thighbone)
  • Tibial component (plastic and metal piece that attaches to the shinbone or tibia)
  • Patellar component (plastic piece that replaces the kneecap or patella)

Types of Knee Replacement Surgery

There are several different kinds of total knee replacement surgery. In most cases, the orthopedic surgeon determines which type of surgery is best for each individual patient.

Minimally invasive surgery is a type of knee replacement performed using smaller incisions with less disruption of surrounding tissue. This procedure is not used if there is considerable misalignment of the thigh and lower leg.

Bilateral total knee replacement involves replacing both knees at the same time. Candidates for this type of surgery must be in good overall health. A one-week stay at an extended care facility is often necessary for recovery from bilateral total knee replacement.

Computer-assisted total knee replacement surgery involves using computer technology to help better align the replacement joint. Better alignment may increase the longevity of the prosthesis.


Two types of anesthesia may be used in knee replacement surgery. In some cases, general anesthesia is used and in other cases, spinal or epidural anesthesia is used. General anesthesia involves putting the patient to sleep so that he or she is unconscious during the surgery. When spinal anesthesia is used, the patient is awake, but is numb from the waist down. The anesthesiologist and surgeon determine which type of anesthesia to use after consulting with the patient and reviewing his or her medical history.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 11 Jan 2010

Last Modified: 28 Sep 2015