Having a total knee replacement (also called knee arthroplasty) is a serious undertaking that will have a complex impact on your life – both immediately following the surgery and for years to come. If persistent knee pain caused by a torn meniscus is leading you to consider total knee replacement, here are three things you should be aware of as you navigate this life-changing decision:
- Knee replacement surgery shouldn’t be your first line of treatment.
Even if your knee pain is significant, most doctors will recommend non-operative options before recommending knee replacement surgery. This might include weight loss if appropriate, an exercise regimen, medications, cortisone or other injection therapies, a minimally invasive surgical procedure, such as a meniscectomy, or bracing.
- Knee replacement surgery is not typically recommended if you are younger than 50.
While recommendations for surgery are based on a patient’s pain and disability, most patients who undergo a total knee replacement are age 50-80. Why? Knee replacements are not as durable as your own knee and eventually wear out. On average, a total knee replacement lasts about 15-20 years, so if you have the procedure in your 40s, you will most likely need to have another – or a revision – surgery later in life. What’s worse than having to go through another surgery, is that the second surgery is much harder than the first. Although the second knee replacement surgery has the same goal as the first – to relieve pain and improve function – when you have a revision surgery it is a longer, more complex procedure that requires extensive planning, specialized implants and tools, prolonged operating times and mastery of difficult surgical techniques to achieve a good result. Coupled with the fact that you will be older and less resilient when the second surgery is required, it’s easy to understand why knee replacement is not frequently recommended for younger patients.
- A new treatment option for meniscus pain is available in select European markets.
The NUsurface® Implant is the world’s first medial meniscus replacement. As an alternative to knee replacement, the implant – which is made of medical grade plastic and inserted into the knee through a small incision. While it’s not meant to take the place of a total knee replacement later in life, it can serve as an opportunity to treat knee pain and keep patients active until much more invasive knee surgery is a viable option – while potentially reducing the need for second knee replacement surgeries later in life.