Is Age an Obstacle to Knee Replacement Surgery?
Some people may worry that they are too old too benefit from having a total knee replacement. But even osteoarthritis patients 75 and older appear to benefit greatly from joint replacement surgery, as a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine has indicated. Researchers followed 174 elderly patients with severe knee or hip osteoarthritis—average age 75—for 12 months, assessing them at six weeks, six months, and one year. During that time, 29% (47) had joint replacement surgery. Although most of them took several weeks to recover, the long-term results were less pain and disability.
There were no deaths, but complications such as an infection or a blood clot in the lungs occurred in 17%, and 38% had pain for longer than a month. However, on average, those who had surgery were walking in less than two weeks and doing housework after seven. Their scores on a standard scale measuring pain and function had improved 50% at the 12-month follow-up. All but one felt they’d made the right choice to have the surgery. And patients over 75 had similar benefits and recovery as those in the 65 to 74 age range.
Many people who opted out of surgery expressed fears about the surgery itself and about recovery. But the study clearly suggests that elderly people with severe osteoarthritis should at least discuss joint replacement with their doctor.
More on Knee Replacement Surgery
Joint replacement is called arthroplasty, and the most common type of arthroplasty is total joint replacement. In this procedure, the entire diseased or damaged knee joint is removed and replaced with an artificial one (a prosthesis) to relieve pain and restore function.
Knee replacement surgery is not a quick fix, and it is not without risks. Serious complications, such as blood clots and infections, can occurbut precautions can be taken to prevent or control them. In addition, the road to recovery can be difficult and time consuming, particularly with joint replacement surgery.
Surgeons continually seek ways to make joint replacements and repairs easier, safer and less arduous for the patient. A number of new techniques are currently under development.
Designed specifically to fit a womans knee, female knee replacements have been available only in recent years. Prior to 2006, when the Gender Solutions knee was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), knee replacements were unisexdesigned to fit both men and women.
Successful knee replacement requires a considerable investment of time and energy in rehabilitation following the surgery. Rehabilitation begins in the hospital, usually the day after surgery. During this period, a strict timetable of exercise, rest, and medication is crucial to the success of the surgery.
If you are facing a knee replacement or have had one, you should talk to your physician about the risks of physical activity, such as a loosening or dislocation of the replacement and the possible need for a repeat surgery. Chances are, though, that a knee replacement wont halt your golf game or drive you from the bowling lanes.