Knee replacement surgery is extremely painful and taxing for the patient. It involves months of therapy and a complete change in lifestyle, as one cannot use an artificial knee the same way one can use their natural knee. Do the risks outweigh the benefits?

The New York Times reports on knee replacement surgery.

Some experts argue that for many, the disadvantages of knee surgery do not outweigh the benefits.

Many people whose knee is aching and inflexible, the idea of replacing it with a new, metal-and-plastic version of the joint can be appealing. The surgery seems so simple and a promise of a better life.

Better movement, a decrease pain and a new feeling of being youthful.

But there is mounting evidence that knee-replacement surgery may be too appealing. The research also shows that many people thinking about having surgery would be better served to try other simpler methods of improving their knees.

How popular are knee replacement surgeries now?

More than 600,000 knee replacement surgeries were performed in 2012 compared to 250,000 just 15 years ago. New studies suggest that people may opt for the procedure prematurely.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons also gave figures pertaining to knee replacement surgery, the number of knee replacements in people between 45 and 64 rose by 205 percent between 2000 and 2012; among people 65 and older, the increase was around 95 percent.

How was the study on knee replacement surgery done?

The Times explains, “For two major studies published this year, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond conducted a surgical-validity assessment. Using criteria developed in Europe, they concluded that knee replacements could be judged appropriate for only those whose arthritis in the knee was medically proven to be advanced. This means not just severe pain but also impaired physical function, like an inability to climb stairs, get out of a chair or walk without aid.”

The researchers also determined that surgical replacements were better aligned to patients older than sixty-five.

Why did this occur?

The materials implanted start to wear out out after a couple of decades, meaning a 45-year-old patient might need a second knee replacement during his lifetime.

Researchers also looked at a study, which used over two hundred men, and women who have painful, aching knees. These patients had knee replacement surgery within five years of being part of study. Many experts said that the subjects in that study only had slight arthritis, which means they never even should have gone for knee replacement surgery. But in the same study, researchers found that people who were good candidate for the surgery, such as those who are sixty five and older, improved in their lives after the surgery and it was worth it for them.

How do you know if you are a good candidate for surgery?

The Times says, “Ask your doctor how advanced your arthritis really is. If you do not have bone-on-bone arthritis, in which all of the cushioning cartilage in the knee is gone, think about consulting a physical therapist about exercise programs that could strengthen the joint, reducing pain and disability. Losing weight helps, too.”

Experts find that people who meet this criteria are generally good prospects for surgery, because they genuinely need the replacement in order to live a more stable life. But they say those who do not meet these standards definitely should not go through the pain and expense of knee surgery. Patients should also consult two or three physicians before coming to a decision.



Gerry Oginski
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