OEBB

Risks and benefits

It is important to discuss all the possible outcomes of this procedure with your healthcare provider in order to have realistic expectations of the results.  In some cases, depending on your condition, surgery may not always result in complete and full recovery.  See Alternative Treatments below for treatment options that can be just as effective as surgery, that are less invasive and may offer benefits like shorter recovery time, shorter time away from work, and fewer to no post-surgery follow-up visits.

Reasons you could benefit from total knee replacement surgery:

  • You have severe knee pain that limits your everyday activities, including walking, climbing stairs, and getting in and out of chairs. You find it hard to walk more than a few blocks without significant pain, or you sometimes need to use a cane or walker.
  • You have moderate or severe knee pain while resting, either day or night.
  • You have chronic knee inflammation and swelling that does not improve with rest or medications.
  • Your knee is deformed — the knee bows in or out.
  • Your knee is stiff. You are unable to bend and straighten your knee.
  • You get no pain relief from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These medications, including aspirin and ibuprofen, often are most effective in the early stages of arthritis. Their effectiveness in controlling knee pain varies greatly from person to person. These drugs may become less effective for patients with severe arthritis.
  • You cannot tolerate pain medications or their complications and side effects.
  • Your knee pain does not substantially improve with other treatments such as cortisone injections, physical therapy or other surgeries.

The risks following total knee replacement surgery are low. Blood clots in the leg veins are the most common complication. Your orthopedic surgeon will outline a prevention program, which could include periodic elevation of your legs, lower leg exercises to increase circulation, support stockings and medication to thin your blood.

Resources

Please visit these resources for more information:

Knee Replacement. 2010. National Institutes of Health

Knee Replacement. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). 1998-2010.

Arthritis: Knee Replacement Surgery. WebMD.  Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 01, 2008. Edited by Marc C. Levesque, MD, PhD on February 01, 2007. 'Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005.

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