Artificial Knees - Explained

Posted on September 13, 2021

Did you know that total knee replacement surgery is one of the most common procedures in Canada? Understanding artificial knees and the health care programs that cover them can help prepare you before surgery. Keep reading for a comprehensive explanation of artificial knees. 

Who Qualifies for An Artificial Knee?

Total knee replacement, a procedure also known as arthroplasty, replaces a knee joint with an artificial one. The replaced joint is either damaged, diseased, or significantly worn.

Not everyone who experiences knee pain is eligible for knee joint replacement. A doctor may only suggest a full knee replacement if you have limited mobility and extreme pain.

People of any age can qualify for knee joint surgery. Total knee replacement is usually only performed on patients between the ages of 60 and 80.

Younger adults may get a partial knee replacement. These will only last about ten years before needing revision.

A common reason people need a replacement knee joint is that they have a condition known as osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a disease that affects the density and quality of a person's bones. It can cause a person's bones to become fragile and fracture easily. 

You may also qualify for total knee replacement if you have health conditions such as gout, hemophilia, and rheumatoid arthritis. These health conditions can cause serious knee damage. Knee deformities, abnormal knee growth, and serious injuries can also qualify a person for artificial knees.

Because total knee replacement is major surgery, people only qualify for it when their knee pain has decreased their quality of life. 

Getting a knee prothesis prematurely can cause more harm than good. Health care providers use Advanced Practice Providers to screen those considering total knee joint replacement surgery.

Based on their testing and specific criteria, the Advanced Practice Providers refer patients to a surgeon.

How Long Do Artificial Knees Last?

On average, artificial knees last between 10 and 15 years. Now technology is evolving at such a quick pace that it may last even longer soon. In fact, in recent years, artificial knees have lasted up to 20 years.

There are also many different types of knee prostheses, and they have varying lifespans.

There are two types of artificial knee failure: short-term failure and long-term failure. Short-term artificial knee failure occurs early on after having the surgery. This failure is typically caused by an infection or botched surgery. Thankfully, short-term artificial knee failure is not common.

Long-term artificial knee failure is more common because it is the gradual wearing down of the knee prosthesis.

The components of the replacement knee joint can wear down, or the bond between the implant and the bone can loosen over time. 

There are many different factors that can affect how long your artificial knee will last.

A few common factors includes:

  • Your activity level
  • Your weight
  • Your age

Your activity level can affect the longevity of your artificial knee. High-impact sports like basketball, football, and jogging can damage your replacement knee joint. However, low-impact activities like swimming, cycling, and walking promote range of motion.

Heavy work and manual labour can also affect the longevity of the total knee replacement, and you should limit these after surgery. 

Weight can also affect how long your artificial knee joint will last. An increased weight level causes more stress on the knee. Maintaining a healthy weight increases the lifespan of your artificial knees.

Another factor that affects how long an artificial knee will last is age. If you receive total knee replacement surgery at a younger age, the chances of you needing revision surgery increase.

Younger patients are typically more active, and they will need the artificial knee for a longer period of time than older patients. 

You should have your artificial knees checked at regular intervals. Typically there are follow-up appointments two weeks post-surgery, six-weeks post surgery, three months post-surgery, and one year post-surgery. 

What Are the Different Types of Artificial Knee Replacements? 

There are many different types of artificial knee implants, but here are examples of a few common designs:  

  • Posterior-stabilized 
  • Cruciate-retaining
  • Bicruciate-retaining
  • Unicompartmental knee replacement

Posterior-stabilized knee replacement implants are widely used. Parts of this implant work with the tibial component to replace your cruciate ligaments. Together they help keep your thigh bone from shifting forward too far. 

The cruciate-retaining design does not completely replace your cruciate ligaments. It keeps the posterior cruciate ligament. Patients are good candidates for this design when their posterior cruciate ligament is still healthy. 

In a bicruciate-retaining knee implant, neither the posterior nor the anterior cruciate ligament are removed. This design allows the knee to function more like an actual knee, and it feels less like an implant.

This design is relatively new to the knee joint replacement market. 

Unicompartmental knee replacements are also called partial knee replacements. This type of knee prosthesis is helpful when there is damage to only one part of the knee.

What Are the Different Types of Artificial Knee Materials?

Different types of materials create artificial knees. There are different types, and they are categorized by their material components.

Here are the different types of artificial knees:

  • Metal on plastic
  • Ceramic on plastic
  • Ceramic on ceramic
  • Metal on metal

Metal on plastic knee implants are the most common and least expensive type of implant. They are also safe and have a good record of longevity.

Metals that are commonly used in the metal on plastic artificial knees include nickel, cobalt-chromium, titanium, and zirconium. The plastic found in the metal on plastic artificial knees acts as a spacer between the metal components. 

Ceramic on plastic knee implants are structured like the metal on plastic knee implants. However, they use a ceramic femoral component or a ceramic-coated femoral component. They also use a plastic spacer.

Ceramic on plastic knee implants are a good option for people who may be allergic to certain types of metals. 

In both of these types of artificial knees, the plastic spacer can wear down, which can cause particles to trigger an immune reaction. This immune reaction can lead to bone damage and eventual failure of the knee replacement.

However, this is not a common cause for concern. 

With ceramic on ceramic knee implants, all components of the knee prosthesis are made from ceramic. Ceramic is not a reactive material and is safe for most people to use.

Ceramic on ceramic knee implants do have a few drawbacks. They sometimes shatter under heavy pressure, and they can squeak when they move. 

Both the femoral and tibial components of metal on metal knee implants are made from metal. This type of implant is less common than others because of concerns about metal entering the bloodstream. 

Metal on metal knee implants do last longer than those made of other materials, so they are sometimes considered for very active young people.

However, the risk of traces of metal typically encourages people to use other knee implant materials. 

What Kind of Maintenance Do Artificial Knees Require?

Proper artificial knee maintenance can help improve your recovery. 

Once you leave the hospital, it will be important to maintain wound care, physiotherapy, and general health upkeep. 

Your surgery site will likely be covered in a dressing to help control swelling. It will be important to make sure the surgery site is clean, and fluid does not build up around the area. Over time, this will heal completely. 

Physiotherapy usually begins at least 24 hours after the operation. This will be done by a professional and will continue with you at home.

Physiotherapy is an important aspect of artificial knee maintenance because it helps you regain a full range of motion in your replacement knee joint and build back your strength.

As time passes, good maintenance will be found in attending follow-up visits and through daily healthy habits.

Low-impact exercises, a healthy weight, and appropriately nourishing your body are great ways to maintain a successful knee replacement. 

browsing the Canada health care plan

Do the Provincial Health Plan Cover Artificial Knees?

The 13 provinces and territories fund and administer the Canadian health care programs. These programs are also known as Canadian Medicare.

Each province and territory receives funding from the federal government and has its own insurance plans.

However, all provinces and territories have to provide health care that is universal, accessible, comprehensive, publicly administered, and portable across provinces. 

Their services cover hospital services that are deemed necessary by a doctor. This includes total knee replacement surgery.

Do Private Canadian Health Care Plans Cover Artificial Knees?

Around two-thirds of Canada's population has private health insurance.

People get private health care plans because they cover services excluded from the public health care programs. Although, most also cover basic medical services.

Most private insurance companies offer extra services to increase comfort. They include services like extra physiotherapy and private hospital rooms. 

Private health insurance companies in Canada could allow you to receive total knee replacement surgery faster than if you had public health care. 

Finding the Right Health Care Plan

Are you wondering what type of health care coverage plan is right for you? Do you want private health insurance that will best cover your artificial knees? 

The process of finding the right health insurance plan for you does not need to be complicated.

With the power of knowledge and the opportunity to compare costs and coverage, you will be able to find a private insurance plan that suits your budget and your needs. 

Click here to find the right health insurance plan for you. 

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