6 common questions about knee replacement surgery

A doctor examines a patient's leg. Both are wearing masks.

Here are a few answers that might be helpful as you decide whether to go ahead with a knee replacement.

Knee replacement can be life-changing—and a little intimidating. As you think about whether it's right for you, here are answers to six questions you might have about pain, recovery and more.

Q. Is knee replacement surgery safe?

A. Total knee replacement is safe and effective. It's one of the most common surgeries performed in the U.S., according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Hundreds of thousands of these procedures are done each year. Total knee replacement can relieve pain and correct leg deformities. And it can help you get back to daily tasks and many of the activities you enjoy.

Q. Is knee replacement surgery painful?

A. Every person's experience is unique, but you can expect some pain as you recover from surgery. Pain management for knee replacement has come a long way in the last 15 years. Spinal, epidural and regional nerve blocks, as well as other pain-management techniques, can be used to help keep pain at bay during and after surgery. And early rehab aimed at range of motion can reduce stiffness and pain too.

Q. Can knee replacement surgery be done under regional anesthesia?

A. Yes. Many surgeons now use regional and local anesthesia during surgery instead of general anesthesia. Some data show that regional anesthesia may reduce complications. It can mean decreased pain and nausea during recovery too. Talk to your care team about what anesthesia is right for you.

Q. How successful is knee replacement surgery?

A. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, total knee replacement is one of the most successful procedures in medicine. It's been successfully performed on people ranging in age from young teenagers to older adults. And more than 90% of knee implants are still functioning well after 15 years.

Q. How long does it take to recover from knee replacement?

A. Every person's experience is different. Recovery depends on the condition of your knee before surgery, as well as your age and other medical issues you may have.

Most people stay in the hospital for one to three days after surgery. It can take up to three months to return to most activities. And it can be six months to a year after surgery before you have maximum strength and endurance.

Physical therapy can help you get back to life more quickly after total knee replacement. Talk to your care team about when you will be able to do specific activities like walking, driving and working.

Q. How long will a replaced knee last?

A. Most knee replacements will last from 15 to 20 years, according to the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons. As medical technology advances, implants may last even longer. Once the implant starts to deteriorate, you might need a revision surgery. So you'll want to think about the timing carefully.

Your doctor is the best source of information if you're considering total knee replacement. This list of questions to ask can help you get the conversation started.

Reviewed 10/13/2022

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