Are You a Good Candidate for Knee Replacement?

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Knee replacement removes a damaged knee joint and replaces it with an artificial joint. Your knee is the largest joint in your body. It’s involved in most of your movements throughout the day.

The goal of knee replacement, also known as knee arthroplasty, is to restore pain-free range of motion and function.

Are There Other Treatment Options?

Doctors usually start with less invasive treatments to restore the knee’s range of motion and reduce pain. Less invasive treatments include anti-inflammatory medicines, joint injections, and physical therapy. Less invasive surgeries, such as arthroscopy, may also be an option.

Ask your doctor about all of your treatment options, including total knee replacement, partial knee replacement, and minimally invasive options, and consider getting a second opinion before deciding on this surgery.

Reasons for Knee Replacement

You may want to consider knee replacement if your knee damage is severe, and knee pain, deformity or disability is affecting your quality of life.

Common reasons for knee replacement include:

  • Knee pain or stiffness limits your daily activities.
  • Knee pain is present even at rest.
  • The knee joint is deformed.
  • X-rays show severe joint degeneration.
  • Other treatments like physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, joint injections, or less invasive surgeries haven’t worked.

If you decide on total knee replacement, ask your surgeon if you are a good candidate for minimally invasive surgery. Minimally invasive knee replacement can involve a faster recovery and less pain than open surgery. If only part of your knee joint is damaged, find out if a partial knee replacement could work for you. In a partial knee replacement, your surgeon removes one side of the joint. 

Who Is NOT a Good Candidate for Knee Replacement?

You may not be a good candidate if:

  • Your knee symptoms are not related to joint disease.
  • Your weight is too much for the artificial joint to support.
  • You have fragile skin or poor skin coverage over your knee.
  • You have a severe illness or infection.
  • You have a terminal disease.

What to Expect

An orthopedic surgeon performs either open knee replacement with a large (8- to 10-inch) incision or minimally invasive knee replacement with a smaller (4- to 6-inch) incision.

You may have general or regional anesthesia, and you will need to stay in the hospital for several days.

You may stay in a rehabilitation center before returning home. Once you are home, you will need help with household, work, and other daily activities.

Physical therapy is an essential part of recovery. Gradually, you’ll regain knee function with less pain. Full recovery times range from 3 to 12 months.

Your Next Steps: 

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jul 29
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

  1. Minimally Invasive Total Knee Replacement. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00405

  2. Surgical Options – Knee. University Orthopedics, Brown University. http://www.universityorthopedics.com/what_hurts/knee_surgerical.html

  3. Total Knee Replacement. Amercian Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00389