OEBB

When is it needed?

Whether to have total knee replacement surgery should be a cooperative decision made by you, your family, your family physician and your orthopedic surgeon. Your doctor may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon for a thorough evaluation to determine if you could benefit from this surgery.

The most common cause of chronic knee pain and disability is arthritis. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and traumatic arthritis are the most common forms.

  • Osteoarthritis usually occurs in people 50 years of age and older and often in individuals with a family history of arthritis. The cartilage that cushions the bones of the knee softens and wears away. The bones then rub against one another, causing knee pain and stiffness.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the synovial membrane becomes thickened and inflamed, producing too much synovial fluid that overfills the joint space. This chronic inflammation can damage the cartilage and eventually cause cartilage loss, pain and stiffness.
  • Traumatic arthritis can follow a serious knee injury. A knee fracture or severe tears of the knee ligaments may damage the articular cartilage over time, causing knee pain and limiting knee function.

You have options.  Evidence suggests that, depending on your condition or injury, alternative treatments such as anti-inflammatory medication, weight loss, and modified physical activity, can work just as well as surgery.  See Alternative Treatments for more information.

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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