Knee Replacement Wearing Out? Here Are Your Options

Knee Replacement Wearing Out? Here Are Your Options

Getting a knee replacement is no small feat. But the idea of getting the replacement replaced? That can be daunting, but it can happen. Here are some signs your knee replacement is wearing out - and what to expect if you need to go through the procedure again.
Knee Replacement

These days, knee replacement surgery is pretty common. Heck, both my aunt and my father have had both knees replaced without much problem. But if you’ve already had the surgery, how do you tell if your knee replacement is wearing out? Here’s the scoop on signs you may need to talk with your doctor and your options. 

Disclosure: this post on knee replacement and what to look for if it’s wearing out is for informational use only. You know your body best, so check with your doctor or orthopedic surgeon about symptoms, concerns, or questions. 

First, What’s Knee Replacement Surgery?

total knee replacement graphic

As we age, our joints, particularly our knees, may wear out or become damaged. And because of this, folks with this condition will have everything from pain when walking, lower mobility (aka, it’s harder to get around), and even pain when you’re sitting there doing nothing. The average age for knee replacement is anywhere from 50-80 years old. 

If a doctor recommends knee replacement surgery, you’ll be under the knife for around an hour or two. During this time, the surgeon will remove damaged cartilage and bone on the femur and tibia and replace those areas with metal implants.

Your kneecap (patella) will also be resurfaced on the bottom side with a plastic button. Finally, a plastic spacer will be inserted between the metal parts to keep them gliding smoothly over each other. After that, it’s a clean-up and sew-up kind of deal. 

For my aunt and father, they were both in the hospital for a couple of days and then in a rehab facility for a week-ish. During that time, they were both able to recover under the careful watch of doctors and nurses and go to physical therapy and rehabilitation classes a few times a day until cleared to go home. They started out on crutches and then progressed to a walker while still having to go to therapy as well. 

Additionally, if you’re overweight or need to exercise more, your doctor may recommend losing weight and exercising as a first course over surgery. 

How Long Does a Knee Replacement Last?

knee replacement post surgery

As for downtime, you’re looking at anywhere from six weeks to a few months of recovery and rehabilitation. How long does a knee replacement last, you ask? With regular wear and tear, it should last anywhere from 15 to 20 years. So, if you’re younger when you have your first one, you may end up back in for a second surgery to replace the first replacement. 

Again, this is an average; it may be different for you depending on your body weight, the amount of exercise you get, and how gentle you are with yours. Most surgeons will tell you that you’ll need to steer clear from rigorous and high-impact activities like running, jumping, and jogging for the rest of your life. 

But, you will be able to enjoy activities that are just as fun, including swimming, light hiking and biking, dancing, and golf – aka, low-impact exercise. 

What Are the Signs of a Knee Replacement Wearing Out?

They are similar to the original signs that you needed a knee replacement in the first place. You’ll notice pain and discomfort in your knee area, and you may have swelling as well. Lastly, you’ll definitely notice a lack of mobility when you try to walk, stand, or go up and down steps. 

Causes of needing a second knee replacement surgery include:

  • Wear and loosening – implants may become loose over time
  • Infection – Due to both metal and plastic implants being inserted in the knee, there is a VERY small chance (less than 1%, actually) that infection may occur. 
  • Instability – The soft tissue around the knee is no longer able to provide stability 
  • Leg fractures – If you have fractures in or around the knee replacement area, you may have to have surgery to fix them, especially if they change the implant’s stability
  • Stiffness – Scar tissue may occur after the first surgery, hindering mobility in the knee. If this becomes the case, surgery may need to happen to revise the area. 

Is a Second Knee Replacement Surgery Harder Than the First?

Doctor looking at knee

This might not be the answer you were hoping to see, but in general, yes, a second knee replacement surgery is harder than the first. Not only is recovery harder due to an increase in your age, but knee revision surgery lasts longer and is much more invasive as specialized implants and tools will need to be used. 

Many surgeons will try to prolong the first knee replacement surgery if you’re younger by using injections, medications, or physical therapy so you won’t have to have a second one later on in life due to the difficulty and problems you may encounter physically. 

You’ll be in a knee brace for a while as your knee heals (like in the first surgery), and therapy may last up to three months on average. 

Read Next:

Exercises For Cracking Knees

Coping with Knee Pain

Tendonitis: Everything You Need to Know

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