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Question: I am 55 years old and I have severe arthritis in my left knee. I’ve been holding off on total knee replacement because I’ve been told it would only last 10-20 years. Have there been any advancements that may make these last longer? My knee is really killing me and keeping me from being active like I used to be.
Answer: Total knee replacement is an excellent intervention to provide pain relief and restore function. Maintaining an active lifestyle is so important to one’s overall health and a painful knee can be a frustrating obstacle that can greatly impede one’s quality of life. However, it is true that anything that is man-made that moves will eventually wear out. That being said, you should be encouraged that knee replacements that are performed today are lasting longer than ever before. Recent advances in chemical engineering with highly cross-linked plastics that are much more wear-resistant have definitely extended the service life of total knee replacements, longer than 30 years. Patients can also take measures to make knee replacements last longer including maintaining ideal body weight, avoiding activities which can lead to premature wear such as long-distance running and watching closely for any signs of bacterial infection which should be treated immediately with antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection. Ultimately, the decision to undergo total knee replacement in a young person involves the trade-off of getting rid of the disabling arthritic pain and returning to many everyday activities in exchange for the risk of revision surgery on the knee at some point in the future