When Is It Time for a Knee Replacement?
Do your knees ache when you climb stairs, walk or even lie down? You may have already tried exercise, injections, medications and non-surgical procedures. Your doctor is the best resource for recommending knee replacement, but certain factors may hasten your need for surgery.
Knee replacement, known as knee arthroplasty or total knee replacement, is one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States. More than one in 10 Americans will need to have a total knee replacement before turning 80. In the procedure, a surgeon uses metal and plastic to cap the ends of the bones that form the knee joint.
What Affects the Timing of Knee Replacement Surgery?
Experts from Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California say several factors influence the need for knee replacement surgery:
- Age. Most people who get a knee replacement are over 60. Younger people can get a knee replacement, but an active lifestyle may shorten the life of the artificial knee. A second replacement surgery is not as successful as the first in many cases.
- Arthritis. Three types of arthritis can affect the knee joint. Osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition that affects mostly middle-aged and older adults, makes the cartilage in the knees break down. Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation in the synovial membrane and leads to stiffness and pain. Arthritis due to injury is known as traumatic arthritis. All three types of arthritis deteriorate knee cartilage, resulting in knee pain and loss of motion.
- Swelling or severe knee pain. Sometimes, knee pain gets so intense that it interferes with daily activities and even sleep.
- Knee deformity. Advanced arthritis or injury can cause the knee to be deformed and inhibit walking.
- Ineffective non-surgical treatments. Over time, treatments like steroid injections, physical therapy and medication are not as effective, and knee replacement surgery is the best option.
Purpose of Knee Replacement
The purpose of knee replacement surgery is to resurface the parts of the knee joint that are damaged and to alleviate knee pain that other non-surgical methods cannot control. Arthritis or injury can wear away cartilage, and the surface of the knee becomes uneven, eroded and pitted. After the surgeon resurfaces the knee, the patient should experience relief from stiffness, pain and instability. It also should help the body feel more aligned.
How Long Will a Total Knee Replacement Last?
The lifespan of an artificial knee will vary, but an artificial knee joint can last between 15 and 25 years.
In nine out of 10 patients, the artificial knee is functional 20 years post-surgery. Age and physical activity level will affect how well the artificial knee works. Artificial joints tend to last longer in older, less active individuals. However, total knee replacement has a high success rate in younger patients. Your doctor can advise you on the timing that is best for you.
Make an Appointment With Your Orthopedist
If your knee hurts, even when you’re not using it, it’s time to see an orthopedist. You don’t have to live with consistent knee pain. Your orthopedist can meet with you to discuss the pros and cons of knee replacement and suggest a timeline for your treatment.