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When Knees Wear Out: What to Know About Replacement Surgery

February 12, 2021
When Knees Wear Out: What to Know About Replacement Surgery

More than 600,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the U.S., including those performed by the expert surgeons at the TriHealth Orthopedic & Sports Institute, and it’s considered one of the safest orthopedic procedures.

Most knee replacements are performed on people with osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear of joints. Over time and with use, the cartilage that protects joints can be worn away. This often causes severe pain that can’t be eased by medications, weight loss, exercise and physical therapy.

For these patients, knee-replacement surgery can restore everyday use of the knee and improve quality of life.

The surgery usually takes 1 to 2 hours. Most patients are up and walking with a walker on the day of surgery. Typically, patients are discharged from the hospital 1 to 5 days after surgery, depending on the individual. During the recovery period, patients work with a physical therapist to regain strength in the knee so they can return to their daily activities as soon as possible—usually in 8 to 12 weeks. Recovery to full strength takes 6 months to a year.

Risks do exist, but complications occur in fewer than 2 percent of cases, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Most of the risks are the same as for any surgery, including developing blood clots, infection or nerve damage. Risks specific to knee replacement include allergy to the prosthesis and failure of the implantation, but these risks are extremely rare.

After recovery, 90 percent of knee-replacement patients find relief from their symptoms. This can make a huge difference in a person’s mobility, lifestyle and general well-being.

Who Can Benefit?

Surgery is the final option for resolving knee pain. But for patients who reach that point, the outcome is usually very favorable, making it well worth the recovery time and effort. It may be time to consider knee-replacement surgery if:

  • Knee pain prevents normal daily activity
  • All other possibilities for relief, such as physical therapy, weight loss, medication and supplements, have been exhausted.


For some patients, partial knee resurfacing is a less invasive surgical option for knee pain that doesn’t respond to other treatments. Most often, the procedure is used in cases where arthritis is confined to a specific area of the knee.

Specially trained surgeons use robotic-assisted surgery to target only those areas of the knee damaged by osteoarthritis, resurfacing them without damaging ligaments or healthy bone and positioning implants more precisely. For surgeons, Mako robotic-arm assisted surgery provides increased accuracy. For patients, it means fewer complications, less recovery time, a more natural feeling in the knee, and near-normal movement after recovery.