Knee replacement surgery (arthroplasty) involves replacing a damaged, worn or diseased knee with an artificial joint. It’s a routine operation for knee pain most commonly caused by arthritis. More than 70,000 knee replacements are carried out in England and Wales each year, and the number is rising. Most people who have a total knee replacement are over 65. For most people, a replacement knee will last for at least 15 to 20 years, especially if the new knee is cared for properly and not put under too much strain.
There are two main types of surgery, depending on the condition of the knee:
The most common reason for knee replacement surgery isosteoarthritis. Other conditions that cause knee damage include:
A knee replacement is major surgery, so is normally only recommended if other treatments, such as physiotherapy or steroid injections, haven’t helped reduce pain or improve mobility. You may be offered knee replacement surgery if:
Adults of any age can be considered for a knee replacement, although it’s typically recommended for older people as young, physically active people are more likely to wear the joint out. The earlier you have a knee replacement, the greater the chance you will eventually need further surgery. However, there is some evidence that replacing the knee joint before it becomes very stiff leads to a better outcome. Most total knee replacements are carried out on people between the ages of 60 and 80. You will need to be well enough to cope with both a major operation and the rehabilitation afterwards. Read more about getting ready for knee replacement surgery and recovering from knee replacement surgery.
Knee replacement surgery is a common operation and most people do not experience complications. However, as with any operation, there are risks as well as benefits. Complications are rare but can include:
In some cases, the new knee joint may not be completely stable and further surgery may be needed to correct it.