Knee replacement

We offer advanced surgical techniques and expert aftercare to replace painful damaged knee joints and help you get back to everyday activities.

Sometimes also called

  • Patellofemoral replacement
  • Partial knee replacement (PKR)
  • Revision knee replacement
  • Total knee replacement (TKR)
  • Unicompartmental knee replacement

At a glance

  • Typical hospital stay
    2–5 days

  • Procedure duration
    1–2 hours

  • Type of anaesthetic
    General, spinal or epidural

  • Available to self-pay?

  • Covered by health insurance?

Why Spire?

  • Fast access to diagnostic tests and scans
  • Consultants who are experts in their field
  • Clear, inclusive pricing
  • 98% of our patients are likely to recommend us to their family and friends

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021

What is knee replacement?

A knee replacement is a common operation to remove worn or damaged parts of your knee joint and replace them with an artificial joint, making movement easy and free from pain again.

Pain is often caused by wear or damage, usually as a result of osteoarthritis. Getting older increases your risk, but genetics, previous injury and lifestyle can play a part, so always seek medical advice if you have symptoms.

Knee replacement surgery can relieve pain and help you become more active again, but your doctor will usually only recommend it after you’ve tried other treatments without success.

These treatments include:

Other procedures your doctor may recommend before having a knee replacement include:

You’ll need an X-ray to show any wear or damage to your joint. Our fast diagnostics means you won’t have to wait long to find out whether knee replacement surgery is right for you. Your consultant will discuss what would be best for you and your lifestyle so it’s a good time to talk about what you want.

Find your nearest Spire hospital

Almost all our hospitals offer knee replacement surgery and have teams of orthopaedic (bone and muscle) surgeons who specialise in this procedure.

Spire Nottingham Hospital

How knee replacement works

In a healthy knee joint

The ends of your bones and kneecap are covered in smooth cartilage – tissue that helps your bones glide easily across each other.

In an unhealthy knee joint

The cartilage is worn away, causing damage to the ends of your bones at the joint and making it painful and difficult to move.

Knee replacement surgery

Knee replacement surgery removes your damaged cartilage and the ends of your bones and replaces them with an artificial joint made of metal and smooth plastic, relieving pain and allowing you to move freely again.

The surgery is carried out under a general anaesthetic or a spinal or epidural anaesthetic where you’re awake but can’t feel anything below your waist.

There are two main kinds of knee replacements: total knee replacement surgery and partial knee replacement surgery.

Total knee replacement

Your surgeon will make an incision below your knee and replace both sides of your joint, and sometimes your kneecap.

Partial knee replacement

Your surgeon will replace just one side of your joint and your operation and recovery will usually be faster than with a total knee replacement.

Complex or revision knee replacement

If you have major bone loss, a deformity or ligament weakness, you might need a complex knee replacement. The artificial joint has a longer stem that fixes into your bones, and additional components that can give you more stability. This type of surgery is also sometimes used if you need to have a knee replacement redone.

Advances in surgery

Exciting recent advances mean that surgeons can often operate using smaller incisions, so there’s less impact on your surrounding muscles and tendons and you’ll recover more quickly.

Some of our hospitals use computer-assisted surgery to enable the surgeon to position the replacement more precisely. Some hospitals also use pre-programmable robotic arms to help fit your joint.

Your operation: what to expect

How long does knee replacement surgery take?

Usually between one and two hours, depending on whether you’re having a total knee replacement or a partial knee replacement.

Anaesthetic choices

Your consultant will help you decide what anaesthetic is best for you. You'll have either a general, spinal or epidural anaesthetic, so you’ll be fully unconscious or awake but unable to feel anything from the waist down. If you have the spinal or epidural options, you can have a sedative to help you feel more relaxed.

Pain after knee replacement

Everyone experiences pain differently and you’re likely to feel discomfort for some time afterwards. But don’t worry, you’ll be given painkillers after the operation and we can help you to manage any pain in the following days and weeks.

Your hospital stay

The average hospital stay is two to five days, with total knee replacements requiring longer than partial knee replacements.

Q & A

Winston Kim, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Talking about knee replacement surgery

Your recovery: what to expect

Recovery time

This can take several months, and you’ll need to do knee replacement exercises and have physiotherapy regularly to improve your mobility.

If you have a partial knee replacement, your recovery should be quicker and with better function.

Physiotherapy and ongoing treatment

Soon after surgery, our physiotherapist will take you through a series of exercises designed to strengthen the muscles around your new knee and improve and optimise movement of the joint. It’s important you carry on doing them after you’ve left hospital. This will help speed up your recovery, so you can enjoy normal activities again.

Your lifestyle after treatment

Many people enjoy a full and active life after knee replacement surgery. You can take part in most low-impact sports, although your consultant will tell you if you need to wear a leg brace.

Our team will support you all the way to get the most from your surgery.

How long does a knee replacement last?

Most knee joint replacements last for 15 years or more.

Risks and complications

Most people have knee replacement surgery without complications, but all surgery carries risks and your consultant will explain them to you before you go ahead.

These can include:

  • Bleeding
  • Failure of artificial knee joint
  • Infection of the knee joint
  • Limited relief of pain
  • Nerve damage
  • Joint stiffness and instability

At Spire hospitals, your safety is our top priority. We have high standards of quality control, equipment and cleanliness and an ongoing system of review and training for our medical teams.

Treatment and recovery timeline

Although everyone's different, here’s a rough guide to total knee replacement recovery time:

View interactive timeline View full timeline

Day 1

You should be able to stand using a walking aid

2–5 days

You’ll be able to leave hospital

1 week

Able to walk independently with crutches

4–6 weeks

May be able to drive (check with your car insurance company)

6 weeks

Able to walk without crutches

3 months–1 year

Usually free from pain and swelling

2 years

Full recovery as scar tissue is healed and muscles restored by exercise

  • Day 1

    You should be able to stand using a walking aid

  • 2–5 days

    You’ll be able to leave hospital

  • 1 week

    Able to walk independently with crutches

  • 4–6 weeks

    May be able to drive (check with your car insurance company)

  • 6 weeks

    Able to walk without crutches

  • 3 months–1 year

    Usually free from pain and swelling

  • 2 years

    Full recovery as scar tissue is healed and muscles restored by exercise

The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.

Get in touch


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