Medically Reviewed by Patrick K. Denton, MD
Will I need a joint replacement? And, if so, when will it be time?
These two questions constantly float through your mind, if you have a knee injury or suffer the degenerative effects of osteoarthritis (OA). It’s likely some of the conservative treatments have been tried – medication, physical therapy, weight loss, or injections – and no longer provide relief.
One physical therapist described the moment you know it’s time: You are trying to cross the street. The all-consuming thought in your mind is making it across the street before the light changes.
“The knee isn’t getting better,” says Orthopedic Surgeon Patrick Denton, MD. “Patients will complain of walking and standing. A lot of them will have achiness at night and tell me, ‘I just can’t sleep with this knee throbbing so much.’ That’s not surprising since you’ve been on the knee all day – at work, running errands, with the kids. Then, when you lay down it’s constantly hurting like a toothache.”
“The patient will tell me this knee is the only thing slowing them down,” says Dr. Denton. “And I say, ‘OK, so let’s fix it.”
BUT DOES IT WORK?
“With a knee joint replacement, you’ll have less pain and more mobility,” says Dr. Denton. “Yet, it would be unrealistic to say that it will be like you’re 18-years-old again. You can do many of the activities that you gave up – walk, golf, and doubles tennis. The only activity we restrict is jogging.”
“Some people say it doesn’t hurt – but it doesn’t feel right — when they kneel or squat,” says Dr. Denton. “They need to remember that the incision and the scar tissue is on the front of the knee. Other than that ‘feeling’ when they kneel, I would say patient satisfaction is in the 95%-plus range.”
Several years ago, research by the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons showed significant benefits for the older knee joint replacement patients with improvements in balance, pain and quality of life.