What Does a Knee Replacement Involve, and What is the Best Age to Undergo This Procedure?
Orthopaedic specialists believe knee replacement surgery is among their most successful interventions. So what is the best age to have this life-changing op? In practice, this procedure might prove necessary for adults of any age, although most patients are between 60 and 80 years old. In most cases, surgeons will replace only one part of the damaged joint in younger patients who require their help. A brief look at the knee’s anatomy will help to understand the difference.
Knee Anatomy and the Different Forms of Knee Replacement
The knee joint consists of three compartments known as condyles. The medial compartment is located towards the inner side of the joint, while the lateral one is positioned towards its outer edge. The patellofemoral compartment is the third one and is situated between the patella or kneecap and the lower end of the thigh bone or femur. Damage to one of these compartments may be treated with a partial or unicondylar procedure, but more widespread damage generally indicates the need for a total knee replacement. In each case, the surgery will involve removing the damaged bone and cartilage and replacing it with a prosthetic part.
Your Age Could Influence how Your Knee Replacement is Conducted
Traditionally, surgeons were required to perform open surgery, exposing the entire joint to access its damaged components when conducting most knee surgery. The procedure carries a heightened risk of blood loss and infection. Patients also require a lengthy post-operative recovery before they can begin enjoying the benefits of their surgery. Although it is not generally not recommended for older subjects, there is an alternative minimally invasive approach that many surgeons use when treating younger patients who are otherwise fit. The technique requires three tiny incisions; two to provide access for miniature surgical instruments and one to accommodate an arthroscope that transmits a magnified video image of the target area to a monitor screen.
The Roll of Age in Determining the Success of a Knee Replacement
Wherever possible, most doctors prefer to adopt a conservative treatment plan for patients with chronic joint pain and swelling. They tend to prescribe anti-inflammatory medications and physiotherapy, resorting to a surgical referral only when these are no longer effective. All surgery carries an element of risk, and a specialist is required to discuss these with each patient before obtaining their written consent to proceed.
In the case of a joint replacement, there is an added slight but possible chance that an implanted component could fail prematurely, necessitating revision surgery to repair or replace it. Often such failures occur in subjects who are more active and tend to overdo things before fully recovering. Thanks to advances in materials science, the typical lifespan of a well-constructed prosthetic knee joint can be anything from 20 to 30 years. One valid reason for delaying this procedure for as long as possible is to ensure patients benefit from this longevity and avoid further surgery. In practice, there is no ideal age for a knee replacement.
Ready to Book Your Knee Replacement?
Ask your doctor to refer you to the Wilgers Life Hospital in Pretoria, where Dr Jan De Vos heads an orthopaedic team specialising in arthroplasty. Click here to learn if you might need a surgical knee replacement.