It’s one of the most common questions we’re asked ahead of a knee replacement: will you be left with legs of different length? YKC’s Jon Smith provides the answer.
The issue of leg length in a knee replacement is a genuine concern and an entirely reasonable one. Leg length discrepancy is, after all, so genuine a concern in hip replacements that it has its own acronym (LLD) and is a part of the consent process when agreeing to surgery.
But your legs will not be a difference length after a knee replacement for two important reasons:
1. Leg length isn’t affected by knee replacement
Generally speaking, the length of your leg is governed by the medial and lateral collateral ligaments – the MCL and LCL. These are the large strap-like ligaments that run down the inside and outside of the knee. As a knee replacement doesn’t affect those ligaments, leg length remains unchanged.
2. A ‘knee replacement’ is not a knee replacement
If you think of a knee replacement as a process in which the knee surgeon removes a chunk of knee and replaces it with an implant then you might reasonably believe that leaves lots of potential for a difference in leg length by the end of the operation. But a knee replacement doesn’t really ‘replace’ any part of the knee, it simply resurfaces bone and cartilage that has worn away with new, durable plastic and titanium.
Why does my leg feel like it’s a different length?
So your leg will not be a different length following knee replacement. But that’s not to say that some patients won’t feel that there’s a difference. That’s most frequently the case with patients who have a bow, knock knee or similar condition – something we see commonly when treating people who’ve spent a lifetime on their knees (ex-miners are the absolute classic in this category).
Fixing this issue whilst completing the knee replacement can leave the patient feeling as though their leg length has changed, but that’s really just an illusion caused by correcting the knee.
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