How do I know if I need knee replacement surgery?

The most common diagnosis of the cause of knee pain prior to knee replacement is osteoarthritis. If you are prevented from carrying out your everyday activities due to pain or discomfort in the knee, then you may have arthritis of some kind. If so, difficulty in bending, squatting, kneeling, and walking may be indications that knee replacement is worth talking to a surgeon about. Most knee replacement patients are between the ages of 60 and 80 years old but in some cases, younger patients with knee problems such as traumatic knee injuries may also require a total knee replacement.

Pain tends to come in a succession of stages for people suffering knee arthritis. At first, you may feel a low grade aching that develops gradually over some years. When you put your weight on an arthritic knee, the pain will become much more obvious. Then you will find it progressively more difficult getting up out of a chair, off the toilet, or going up and down the stairs. The pain will begin to disturb your sleep at night and you may need to start taking painkillers to get enough rest.

In the second stage, you begin to cut back on you daily activities to cope with the knee pain. For example, you walk less; you decide that gardening is too difficult now; or that you can’t keep up with the housework. Maybe you feel you can’t carry the groceries into the house anymore. Perhaps you’re avoiding stairs now, or choosing not to take part in certain recreational activities. In other words, when you are having difficulty performing normal activities of daily living, you may need a knee replacement.

By the third stage, a person begins taking pain medication to ease the recurring, physical discomfort in the knee joint. If you have come to any of these stages, you should seek advice from a doctor. A doctor will take x-rays of your knee joint to see how much damage has occurred. Depending on the extent of your knee problems, your doctor may suggest conservative treatments before deciding to operate on the knee. Conservative treatments include medication, injections, braces, and physical therapy. If none of these treatments allow you to recover some of your knee function, then a knee replacement (uni-compartment knee or total knee replacement) may be the treatment of choice.