How Long Does a Total Knee Replacement Last?

Deciding to undergo a total knee replacement is a big decision for patients, and the results are usually life changing. After recovery patients often see a decrease in pain with mobility and are able to more easily go about their daily activities.

A huge concern among patients is how long can patients expect the new joint to last? Studies have shown that the life of knee implants allow most patients to have improved pain and mobility for at least 20 years.

Increased mobility after 20 years

knee replacement recoveryAccording to the Arthritis Foundation, a study done by the Center for Hip and Knee surgery found that after a 20 year follow up of total knee replacements performed between 1975 and 1985 that 95% of patients could walk at least 5 blocks. The average age of the patients in the study was 85. They also found that none of the implants failed after the 20 year mark.1

With most patients in the study having the surgery performed between the ages of 60-80, many can expect to still maintain mobility with unlimited walking, maneuvering stairs, and successfully continue activities of daily living even with the normal age process.

Some patients unfortunately do require a second knee replacement, which is called a revision.
Although revisions are often not as successful as a primary knee replacement surgery, reports show that only about 2% of patients require a revision within the first 5 years.

Considerations that can increase the life of a joint replacement

Staying away from high impact activities

Exercises that are stressful on the joint, such as running and jumping can increase the wear on a joint replacement. Cycling, walking, low resistance weight-lifting and calisthenics, elliptical machines and swimming are all low impact activities that won’t cause increased stress on the joint.

Patient Weight

Just as high impact exercise can add stress to a joint replacement, so can excess weight. The closer a patient is able to stay towards a normal weight for their body can increase the longevity of the implant.

Underlying conditions and risk of infection

Patients who have medical conditions such as osteoporosis which can cause fractures may have an increased chance of a failed knee replacement. Procedures done post-surgery or diseases that increase the risk for infection can also cause complications following a total knee replacement surgery.

The future of joint replacement longevity

Although you can expect many knee replacements to last up to 20 years, the younger the patient is at the time of surgery affects the possibility of revision. With new advancements in technology and medical research, the goal is to improve the longevity of these joints to surpass 20 years for future patients. We may be seeing patients at a younger age living out the rest of their lives with the same joint replacement.

  1. Jennifer Davis, Arthritis Foundation, Knee Replacements Last for Decades: Recipients stay more active than expected – 20-plus years after implant.
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