Experts generally agree that an individual is a good candidate for knee replacement surgery if he or she:
- Experiences daily, significant and disabling pain that interferes with routine activities and diminishes quality of life
- Experiences stiffness and instability in the knee, which leads to buckling
- Experience resting pain
- Experience night knee pain while sleeping
- Has knee deformity caused by arthritis
- Has x-ray evidence of joint damage
- Has tried other treatments and therapies that have failed to provide relief
Some people delay knee replacement surgery because of cost or because they fear the pain and/or risks associated with the procedure. Delaying knee surgery can backfire, however, because additional or irreparable harm to your knee may occur, which could reduce or eliminate any benefits from eventual knee replacement. In some cases, however, knee replacement can be delayed for several years by choosing another, less invasive operation, such as osteotomy.
Although knee replacement surgery was once considered most appropriate for people age 60 to 75, research now shows that people of nearly any age can benefit. Studies indicate that it is better to have knee replacement surgery earlier rather than to wait because those who have poorer knee function at surgery also have worse function two years after surgery. One reason for the worse prognosis is that the longer a person waits, the more the bone and knee cartilage may wear away.
Deciding whether to undergo knee replacement surgery is a decision people should make only after they have full details about the procedure and have a thorough discussion with their orthopedic surgeon.