When is it time for knee replacement surgery?

After nearly a decade of Orthopaedic practice devoted to Joint Replacements, one of the most frequent questions I am asked by patients is “How will I know when it’s time for knee replacement surgery?” Truthfully, my response is simply, “You will know when it’s time.”
Let me explain….

Arthritis of the knee, especially osteoarthritis, or “wear and tear arthritis”, is extremely prevalent. In fact, as we age, all of us will wear out the cartilage in our knees to some degree. Fortunately for most, occasional knee aches and pains don’t really limit us in any significant way. However the number of people who are afflicted with more debilitating knee arthritis continues to grow. There are several reasons for this: Our aging population, our increased demand for physical activity, previous knee surgery and obesity are just some of the factors linked to this rise in knee arthritis. Thus, it has been estimated that by the year 2030, there may be over 3 million first-time knee replacements performed in the United States alone. That’s a lot of achy knees.

When might it be time for you? I think consideration of three simple questions will help ease the stress of this understandably difficult decision to proceed with knee replacement surgery.

1. Have you tried all other non-operative measures to lessen knee pain?

Have you already tried treatments such as physical therapy and exercise, weight loss, use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, use of a cane or walker, and knee injections?

2. Do you avoid doing things that you need to do, or enjoy doing, because of your knee pain?

Standing, walking, and even sitting for longer periods of time often become increasingly challenging as knee arthritis advances. While limiting the amount of time spent doing these activities may help lessen the discomfort, sometimes it’s just not practical. Work demands and daily life demands often involve those very types of activity that cause knee pain.

3. Are you sick of it all?

The limitations imposed by knee arthritis often develop slowly. However, for most patients, there will come a time when discomfort and pain, trouble sleeping, stiffness, swelling, difficulty with stairs and walking, and the increasing need for medications, injections and rest become a real burden. Are you tired of knee pain interfering with what you can do?

In my experience, when a patient can honestly answer “YES” to all three questions, it’s time for knee replacement. It’s never convenient to have any surgical procedure, but knee replacement surgery can be scheduled and planned for at a time that is right.

In the right patients knee replacement surgery can help restore a quality of life that many patients thought was long since gone. Without a doubt, the most frequent comment I hear when patients have recovered from surgery is, “I should have done this a long time ago.”

Gregory E. Raab, MD
Joint Replacement Specialist
Elite Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center

If you are wondering if the time is right for you or a loved one for knee replacement please call to schedule an appointment with Dr. Gregg Raab at Elite Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center- 615-324-1600.

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