Are there any risks if I choose to delay knee replacement surgery?

Over time the knee joint becomes worn and damaged, as the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones and allows them to slide smoothly over each other as you walk, run or stand, starts to disintegrate. You may have severe pain, swelling and stiffness and easy movement is affected. Often patients visiting Mr Jonathan Webb’s knee surgery clinic complain that the pain is so severe that it is affecting their quality of life and makes simple, everyday tasks a trial.

This condition is called osteoarthritis and affects most men and women over the age of 60 as part of the natural ageing process. However, it can also affect much younger patients, if they have a predisposition or have suffered an injury to the knee which has hastened the deterioration of cartilage.

What does knee replacement surgery entail?

Knee replacement surgery involves replacing the components of the knee joint with an implant. There are actually two joints in the knee – the tibiofemoral joint between the tibia and the femur and the patelllofemoral joint that joins the kneecap to the femur. These two articulations work as a hinge, which means the knee can straighten and bend, but also allows for side to side movement.

It is possible to undergo a partial knee replacement that aims to retain any undamaged parts of the knee by using an implant to replace just one or two components of the knee. Another option is a knee osteotomy. This surgical procedure can be a more appropriate option for younger patients that are showing signs of damage in just one area of the knee. Either by removing or adding a wedge of bone to the tibia or femur, the aim is to shift body weight off the damaged area of the knee, preserving function for longer.

Early diagnosis of osteoarthritis and the appropriate treatment can make a profound impact on your long-term mobility and quality of life. Remember, oestoarthritis is a degenerative disease, so will only continue to get worse if not treated. However, a knee replacement is major surgery that has a number of potential risks and can involve a significant period or recovery and rehabilitation. Many patients enquire if delaying knee surgery is an option.

Another consideration, particularly for younger patients, is the longevity of the replacement. Statistics from Arthritis Research UK indicate that for 80 to 90 per cent of patients that have undergone a total knee replacement, the implant should last approximately 20 years.

Knee replacement surgery alternatives

There are other surgical and non-surgical treatments, which will often be explored first, but they may only provide temporary relief and the long-term solution will be replacement of the joint.

  • certain vitamins or minerals have been found to be helpful in reducing inflammation and slowing down
  • arthritis
  • anti-inflammatory medication
  • support braces or sleeves
  • physical therapy
  • lifestyle changes, particularly weight loss
  • steroid injections
  • hyaluronic acid injections

During your consultation with Mr Jonathan Webb, he will discuss all your options in full, including the benefits and potential risks, so you can make an informed decision about your future.