What muscles are damaged during knee replacement?

Answered by James Kissner

During knee replacement surgery, several muscles and tendons in the knee region can be affected or damaged. The extent of damage varies depending on the surgical technique used and the specific needs of the patient. However, the main muscles that are commonly affected during knee replacement surgery include the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles.

1. Quadriceps: The quadriceps muscle group is located at the front of the thigh and plays a crucial role in knee extension. During knee replacement surgery, the quadriceps tendon is usually cut to gain access to the knee joint. This allows the surgeon to remove the damaged or diseased parts of the knee and replace them with artificial components. Cutting the quadriceps tendon is necessary but can result in temporary weakness and require post-operative rehabilitation to regain strength.

2. Hamstrings: The hamstrings are a group of muscles located at the back of the thigh. They play a vital role in knee flexion and stability. During knee replacement surgery, the hamstrings are typically not cut. However, they may be retracted or moved aside to allow access to the knee joint. This can cause temporary discomfort and tightness in the hamstrings post-surgery. Physical therapy and exercises are often prescribed to help restore flexibility and strength in the hamstrings.

3. Calf Muscles: The calf muscles, including the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, are located at the back of the lower leg. These muscles are not directly involved in knee replacement surgery. However, their function can be affected during the recovery phase. After surgery, patients may experience calf muscle tightness or cramping due to reduced mobility and prolonged periods of inactivity. Regular movement, ankle pumps, and stretching exercises can help alleviate these issues and prevent complications such as blood clots.

It’s important to note that the specific muscles affected and the degree of damage can vary depending on the surgical approach used and the individual patient’s condition. Minimally invasive techniques, such as partial knee replacement or robotic-assisted surgery, may cause less muscle damage compared to traditional open surgery. Rehabilitation and physical therapy are crucial in restoring muscle strength, flexibility, and function after knee replacement surgery. Each patient’s recovery process may differ, and it is essential to follow the guidance of healthcare professionals to achieve the best outcomes.