Al Roker Undergoes Knee Replacement Surgery

Today, Today‘s meteorologist and co-host Al Roker underwent knee replacement surgery on his right knee. This is actually Roker’s second knee replacement, having undergone the procedure on his left knee nearly fifteen years ago. Although he did not discuss the reasons for the surgery, he did tell his Today show colleagues that the procedure had gone well and he was feeling “pretty good”:

Roker said he was helped by his daughter Laila’s allowing him to have her beloved teddy bear, Sammy to keep him company at the hospital. He also said he hopes to be out of the hospital by Friday.

Roker will undergo intensive physical therapy and hopes to return to the show by Monday October 24th.

What you should know about the knee:

knee-anterior-peter2The knee joint is the largest joint in the body, consisting of 4 bones and an extensive network of ligaments and muscles.

The knee is made up of four main bones- the femur (thigh bone), the tibia (shin bone), fibula (outer shin bone) and patella (kneecap). The main movements of the knee joint occur between the femur, patella and tibia.

Each are covered in cartilage which is an extremely hard, smooth substance designed to decrease the friction as movement occurs between the bones. The patella lies in an indentation at the lower end of the femur known as the intercondylar groove. At the outer surface of the tibia lies the fibula, a long thin bone that travels right down to the ankle joint.

Each knee joint has two crescent-shaped cartilage menisci. These lie on the medial (inner) and lateral (outer) edges of the upper surface of the tibia bone. They are essential components, acting as shock absorbers for the knee as well as allowing for correct weight distribution between the tibia and the femur.

What can lead to a knee replacement?

Arthritis is the most common cause of damage to the knee that can lead to knee replacement. Arthritis can be caused by three things:

  • Osteoarthritis- This occurs in people over 50.  The cartilage that cushions the bones of the knee softens and wears away. Eventually, the bones rub against one another, causing knee pain and stiffness.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis- This is a chronic inflammatory disease. The lining of the knee joint, called the synovium, gets thickened and produces excess fluid, leading to swelling and joint stiffness. Chronic inflammation leads to damage to the cartilage.
  • Traumatic Arthritis- Caused by a severe injury to the knee, such as a fracture or torn ligaments.

What does a joint replacement entail?

Knee and titanium hinge joint. Isolated on white

Joint replacement is becoming more common. More than 1 million Americans have a hip or knee replaced each year. Research has shown that even if you are older, joint replacement can help you move around and feel better.

With total knee replacement, the surgeon removes damaged cartilage and bone from the surface of the knee joint and replaces them with a man-made surface of metal and plastic. In a partial knee replacement, the surgeon only replaces one part of the knee joint.

A new joint, called a prosthesis, can be made of plastic, metal, or both. It may be cemented into place or not cemented, so that your bone will grow into it. Both methods may be combined to keep the new joint in place.

A cemented joint is used more often in older people who do not move around as much and in people with “weak” bones. The cement holds the new joint to the bone. An uncemented joint is often recommended for younger, more active people and those with good bone quality. It may take longer to heal, because it takes longer for bone to grow and attach to it.

New joints generally last at least 10 to 15 years. Therefore, younger patients may need to have the same damaged joint replaced more than once.

Any surgery has risks. Risks of joint surgery will depend on your health before surgery, how severe your arthritis is, and the type of surgery done. Many hospitals and doctors have been replacing joints for several decades, and this experience results in better patient outcomes.

After hip or knee replacement, you will often stand or begin walking the day of surgery. At first, you will walk with a walker or crutches. You may have some temporary pain in the new joint because your muscles are weak from not being used. Also, your body is healing. The pain can be helped with medicines and should end in a few weeks or months.

Physical therapy can begin the day after surgery to help strengthen the muscles around the new joint and help you regain motion in the joint. An example of a rehabilitation program after knee surgery is available from the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons:


Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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