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What are the possible disadvantages of a knee replacement?

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We now know that knee replacements aren't so likely to be effective in the early stages of arthritis. We can be much more confident of a good outcome where the arthritis is more advanced.

The possible disadvantages of knee replacement surgery include:

  • A replacement knee can never be quite as good as a natural knee – most people rate the artificial joint about three-quarters normal.
  • Most knee replacements aren’t designed to bend as far as your natural knee. Although it’s usually possible to kneel, some people find it uncomfortable to put weight on the scar at the front of the knee.
  • You may also be aware of some clicking or clunking in the knee replacement.
  • You may have some numbness at the outer edge of the scar to begin with. This usually improves over about two years but it’s unlikely that the feeling will completely return to normal.
  • A replacement knee joint may wear out after a time or may become loose.

Most knee replacements will last for 20 years or more, so younger patients are more likely to need a repeat knee operation at some point in later life. The chances of needing repeat surgery are increased if:

  • you’re overweight
  • you do heavy manual work.
  • you run or play vigorous sports.

Although your knee can be replaced again if necessary, revision surgery is more complicated and the benefits tend to lessen with each revision.

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