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My knee replacement seems to be taking a while to heal. Is there a problem?

Q) Following an arthroscopy, I was referred for total joint replacement of both knees. My right knee joint was replaced in November 2008, and since then I've had more pain than before the operation. The problems of my left knee – awaiting surgery – have faded in comparison. I do have a good range of movement and observers tell me that my gait is freer and more natural, and my surgeon and GP tell me that sometimes these things take time. But I'm constantly meeting people who've made a full recovery after three months. Do you think further investigation is called for or is this normal and will eventually improve?
Jo, Hatfield (Spring 2010)

A) Obviously no two people are the same. I tell my patients that it may take up to a year to get over a major joint replacement but that the pain may never completely disappear. In your case it does seem to be taking a long time to recover. This may be due to several reasons. These include the amount of pain and damage before the operation, the difficulty of the procedure, and the presence of arthritis in other joints (such as the hip). I would continue to follow the advice of your GP, surgeon and physiotherapist, but if things don’t settle, you need to take this up with the surgeon. Very rarely the artificial joint may become loose or infected and it's possible to look into this with x-rays, blood tests and scans.

This answer was provided by Dr Philip Helliwell for the Spring 2010 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

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