Having a total knee replacement (also called knee arthroplasty) is a serious undertaking that will have a complex impact on your life – both immediately following the surgery and for years to come. If persistent knee pain caused by a torn meniscus is leading you to consider total knee replacement, here are three things you should be aware of as you navigate this life-changing decision:
- Knee replacement surgery shouldn’t be your first line of treatment.
Even if your knee pain is significant, most doctors will recommend non-operative options before recommending knee replacement surgery. This might include weight loss if appropriate, an exercise regimen, medications, cortisone or other injection therapies, a minimally invasive surgical procedure, such as a meniscectomy, or bracing.
- Knee replacement surgery is not typically recommended if you are younger than 50.
While recommendations for surgery are based on a patient’s pain and disability, most patients who undergo a total knee replacement are age 50-80. Why? Knee replacements are not as durable as your own knee and eventually wear out. On average, a total knee replacement lasts about 15-20 years, so if you have the procedure in your 40s, you will most likely need to have another – or a revision – surgery later in life. What’s worse than having to go through another surgery, is that the second surgery is much harder than the first. Although the second knee replacement surgery has the same goal as the first – to relieve pain and improve function – when you have a revision surgery it is a longer, more complex procedure that requires extensive planning, specialized implants and tools, prolonged operating times and mastery of difficult surgical techniques to achieve a good result. Coupled with the fact that you will be older and less resilient when the second surgery is required, it’s easy to understand why knee replacement is not frequently recommended for younger patients.
- An artificial meniscus may soon be available. If you are suffering from knee pain following meniscus surgery or are without viable treatment options, the NUsurface®Meniscus Implant may provide an alternative option, once approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. NUsurface is designed to mimic the function of the natural meniscus and redistribute loads transmitted across the knee joint. The implant is made from medical grade plastic and, as a result of its unique materials, composite structure and design, does not require fixation to bone or soft tissues. NUsurface has the potential to address the treatment gap of those suffering from meniscus deficiency and deterioration who are too old for meniscus repair and too young for total knee arthroplasty. U.S. clinical trials completed enrollment in June 2018, and the company is expecting to file for approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration within the next two years.
Your doctor may give you additional or alternate information regarding knee pain and total knee replacement surgery, depending on your particular situation. If you have questions about your best course of action, schedule an appointment to discuss what’s right for you.
CAUTION – Investigational device. Limited by United States law to investigational use.