How much you have to have redone depends on what part of the implant has failed. For instance, debris from the implant’s wear can damage bone. “So, if you don’t follow up with your doctor for 10 to 15 years, and then have bone damage, you may need to remove old components and replace them with all new ones,” explains Dr. Glassman.

  • Hazards of surgery. As with any surgery, you face the risk of infection and/or blood clots. Or the implant itself could fail if a bone fractures or if the implant loosens, for example.
  • Unrealistic expectations. “Many patients think they will go back to a normal lifestyle, that they will be pain-free or that they can return to a higher level of activity than we recommend,” says Dr. Parsley. “Your knee will be better, but never normal.”

The Bottom Line

  • Try everything else first. “Have a thorough evaluation and explore conservative options,” says Dr. Parsley. “For instance, if you restore strength and flexibility in the muscles around the knee, you will reduce pain and improve function.” Other nonsurgical treatments include pain medications, losing weight, or steroid or lubricant injections.
  • Understand the gamble. You may face the prospect of revision surgery, whereas someone who is older might not, in part because you’re likely to be more active. Revisions in younger patients are twice as high as in older patients.
  • Consider partial knee replacement. This is a good option for someone with arthritis in only one part, or one of the three compartments, of the knee, says Dr. Glassman. It’s a smaller surgery, potentially with a faster recovery and less pain. But partials usually wear out in 10 to 12 years. Or you may develop arthritis in the other two knee compartments and then need a full replacement.
  • Get the most experienced surgeon. Ask your internist to refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon who primarily does knee replacements, recommends Dr. Glassman. And make sure that doctor will also treat complications.