This blog post was updated on May 11, 2020. Previous comments have not been removed or edited.
Total knee replacement surgery is on the rise. However, studies are showing that total knee replacement operations are often unnecessary and can cause serious complications.
Is osteoarthritis giving you knee pain? You may think that a joint replacement is the best possible solution. After all, knee replacement numbers are large and growing: 600,000 of the surgeries are completed every year, with numbers growing year by year. As the joints of the baby-boomer generation continue to age, experts say that millions of these surgeries will be performed by 2030.
Before addressing a few of the complications that can accompany a knee replacement, let’s look at a study that suggests many total knee replacement surgeries are inappropriate.
Surgery recommended too often
In 2014, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) published an important study that focused on appropriateness of total knee replacement surgeries.
Examining a list of factors designed in Europe to assess surgical validity, the scientists determined that knee replacement surgery should only be used when osteoarthritis was fully developed.
“This means not just severe pain but also impaired physical function,” explained Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times, “like an inability to climb stairs, get out of a chair or walk without aid.”
The VCU team also argued that the replacements were typically a better solution when patients were at least 66 years old, since the artificial knee typically degrades in about 20 years – meaning that surgeries would have to be repeated during the lifetime of younger patients.
Finally, they looked at a previous analysis of 200 adults who were suffering from knee pain and eventually had the joint replaced. One of out every three patients in that study had mild arthritis and were inappropriately selected for the total knee replacement operations, the team found.
Knee Replacement Surgeries Not a Permanent Cure
Total knee replacement overuse is concerning to physicians around the world. As shown above, they are often recommended even when not medical necessary or appropriate. Additionally, knee replacement surgery is not a permanent cure, even when it is medically recommended. The artificial joint will only last from 10-15 years, depending on the level of care taken by the patient. As the majority of the population gets increasingly overweight, knee replacements will last even less time because of the increased pressure on the joint, as every pound of bodyweight produces up to 4 pounds of pressure on the knee.
Complications associated with total knee replacement surgery include:
- Anesthesia-related complications - Adverse effects of anesthesia range from nerve injury to vocal cord injury, from latex allergic reactions to dental trauma. General anesthesia may also induce an irregular heartbeat.
- Blood clots - Surgery makes it likelier that you will experience a blood clot. “That’s because the clotting process is stimulated as your body attempts to stop the bleeding and close the surgical wound,” said Samuel Greengard of Healthline. “The surgical procedure may stimulate clots to form in error in blood vessels, which then may block the normal flow of blood.”
- Infections - Infections are of particular concern to individuals diagnosed with diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, due to their more vulnerable immune systems.
Relieving knee pain without surgery
Are you considering surgery for your knee pain? Since thousands of knee replacement surgeries are unnecessary, you owe it to yourself to explore all the non-surgical options we have available.
Our board-certified physicians provide treatments that eliminate the need for surgery and restore normal joint function. Contact us today to request your free consultation!