7 signs it may be time for a knee replacement


CHERAW, S.C. — Knee joint replacements represent one of the most common and successful surgical procedures available today.

“It is not like a broken bone, where you know immediately that something is wrong and needs repair,” said Dr. Thomas DiStefano. “The need for a total joint replacement is often the result of a gradual wear and tear. At first, my patients may begin to notice increased difficulty doing certain tasks. Then, over time, they start experiencing pain, which becomes worse and eventually limits their daily activities.”

Key indicators that it may be time to consider a joint replacement include:

1. Stiffness in the knee joint that limits the patient’s ability to move.

2. The patient feels a mild ache that progresses into significant pain (even while seated). This pain may be bad enough to interfere with the patient’s sleep.

3. Over-the-counter medication may help for a while, but eventually even these lose their pain-relieving effects.

4. Physical therapy or walking aids no longer help with mobility.

5. Eventually, the patient is unable to lift their leg(s) or bend and straighten your knee(s).

6. At this point, you are unable to complete everyday tasks without assistance.

7. Arthroscopy or another, less complicated procedure will not help, at this stage of deterioration.

When the patient recognizes that they are exhibiting these signs of joint deterioration, they should make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. During the office visit, the patient will be carefully evaluated to determine the best care plan for their unique situation.

The surgeon will talk with the patient about their medical history, their general health and ask when they began experiencing the stiffness/pain and how badly their mobility and daily activities are limited. Next, the physician will complete a physical examination of the patient to determine their current mobility status and strength level. An X-ray and, possibly, a more sophisticated MRI may be used to observe the condition of the patient’s bones and soft tissues in the deteriorated knee.

Until early in this century, most joint replacements were performed on individuals who were 65 years of age or older. Currently, the average age of joint replacement recipients is getting younger each year.

“Many patients are receiving new knee joints for two primary, but very different, reasons,” said DiStefano. “First, many adults today want to stay active and healthy longer by participating in tennis, jogging, dancing or any other physical activity that keeps them moving, which is a very positive trend.

“The second reason more people are receiving joint replacements is largely due to obesity, because excessive weight on the knee joints work to speed up the deterioration process. Unfortunately, for every extra pound on your body, 3 additional pounds of pressure are added on the knees,” he continued. “The good news is that by losing only 15 pounds, one can reduce their knee pain by half.”

A board-certified orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Thomas DiStefano is fellowship-trained in sports medicine, and enjoys providing patients with the latest technology in orthopedic surgery. Since his time in Cheraw, he has performed more than 25 total knee replacements at McLeod Health Cheraw.