You’ve tried medicine and physical therapy and injection therapies such as cortisone injections, but the osteoarthritis in your knees or hips is causing you pain and keeping you from doing the things you love.
If this sounds like you, you might be considering having your achy joint or joints replaced.
Joint replacements generally tend to be very successful, allowing most people who have them to return to active lives free of chronic pain.
But, while artificial joints are designed to last a long time, they won’t last forever. This means that if you’re a young, active person considering a hip or knee replacement, there’s a possibility that you would need to have the same joint replaced more than once.
Just how long can you realistically expect an artificial knee or hip to last?
Failure can occur in short- or long-term
It’s first important to understand that a joint replacement can fail early on or over a long period.
Early failure isn’t common, but when it does occur it’s usually because an infection develops in the joint after surgery.
One of the best things people can do to set themselves up for a successful procedure is to minimize their risk factors beforehand. Risk factors include things like uncontrolled diabetes, increased weight, or poor nutrition, which increase the chances of an infection.
Unfortunately, no one can be sure that a hip or knee replacement will be the last operation needed on that joint. No operation is 100% successful, and nothing lasts forever. In addition, several factors, including surgical technique and surgeon experience, how many operations a particular hospital or surgeon performs each year, and patient factors (including age, weight, and activity level) can all have powerful effects on how long a replaced joint lasts.
Based on many large studies of different joint implants, it’s generally thought that around 90 percent of modern total knee replacements still function well for 20 years.
One good example of newer technology is a plastic called highly cross-linked polyethylene, which has very low-wear properties. There is good reason to suspect that implants made from this material will last longer than plastics that were previously used.
Once you’ve got your new knee or hip, there are certain things you can do to help keep it intact, such as:
- Keep active but avoid high-impact activities like running, and jogging.
- Maintain a healthy weight. The obesity epidemic is creating another pool of younger patients needing total joint replacements. Each additional 20 pounds of weight a person carries puts more than 100 pounds of stress on the knees.
- Check-in with your orthopaedic specialist every few years.
The claim that certain implants are going to last 30 years is false and there is no proof of the UK and Australian Registry data to support this.