How do I know if I need a knee replacement?

How do you know if that nagging knee pain you feel when climbing the stairs is normal wear and tear or something that needs expert attention?

We explore how to know if you need a knee replacement to help you reduce pain and get on the right track for long-term recovery.

A person holding their knee in pain - how to know if you need a knee replacement blog
A person with knee pain

How do you know if you need a total or partial knee replacement?

The type of surgery you need will depend on a few factors, your consultant will be able to go through your options with you and advise on the best course of action. Whether you need total knee replacement surgery may be influenced by how the knee pain and lack of mobility are affecting your quality of life.

What are the symptoms of needing a knee replacement?

Looking out for the early signs that you may need a knee replacement can help you on the route to a faster recovery and enable you to get back to your active everyday activities.

With this in mind, here are some symptoms to look out for:

  • Consistent pain: 24-hour severe pain in the knee and the surrounding area, or elsewhere such as the hip or ankle, which impacts your daily activities even when you are resting
  • Noticeable changes: swelling and inflammation of the knee which no longer responds to medication
  • Limited movement: if you’re experiencing stiffness in the knee and immobility
  • Legs curve outward: be aware of your legs’ shape and if they have started ‘bowing’
  • Medication no longer working: if non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs no longer provide relief from pain.

If you have any of these symptoms you should be sure to contact your GP who will be able to assess the issues you’re having and see if you are a good candidate for surgery.

Why do I need knee surgery?

The most common reason for knee replacement surgery is osteoarthritis, which is the most common type of arthritis in the UK that causes joints to become painful and stiff. Other health conditions include:

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • haemophilia
  • gout
  • disorders that cause unusual bone growth
  • death of bone in the knee joint following blood supply problems
  • knee injury
  • knee deformity with pain and loss of cartilage.

What happens if you wait too long for a knee replacement?

Prolonging knee surgery can be painful, as well as lead to several problems, including:

  • weakened muscles and ligaments of the knee
  • deformity of the area outside the knee joint
  • limited mobility due to chronic pain and loss of function
  • continued degeneration of the knee joint
  • the reduced success rate of any future surgery.

Risks of knee replacement surgery

It’s natural to feel worried about the risks for any surgery, but remember the longer you delay surgery, the worst the condition can get.

Knee replacement surgery is performed regularly and most patients have no complaints. However, even though risks are rare, you should be aware of them. The risks include:

  • stiffness of the knee
  • infection of the wound
  • infection of the joint replacement, needing further surgery
  • unexpected bleeding into the knee joint
  • ligament, artery, or nerve damage in the area around the knee joint
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • persistent pain in the knee
  • A break in the bone around the knee replacement.

Our team is dedicated to delivering high-quality treatment to our patients while also ensuring they feel as comfortable as possible throughout their stay with us.