Advice Please – Should I Get a New Knee?

I went to my longtime family physical therapist, Doug Conroy, Monday, and after spending an hour talking, feeling and observing my body I could see he was measuring his words—not a good sign.

His conclusion, pending doctor verification, was that if I want the ability to get the exercise I need to have a good quality of life, I’m probably going to need knee replacement surgery. It was not necessarily the news I wanted, but it was no huge surprise with the chronic knee pain I feel.

I’ve written about orthopedic implants, visited Zimmer and DePuy in Warsaw, Indiana, and have gone to the medical engineering shows. So even though I know what the hardware looks like, it’s different when it’s your own body.

I am sure that many of you good folks who read the blog and magazine have undergone joint replacement procedures. I would like to know your results. Did it significantly reduce your pain? Have you been able to up your exercise regimen? Can you play tennis or basketball? I have completely lost my jump shot because of knee arthritis. Will I be able to regain it?

Tell me about your recovery. I’ve heard some bad stories about rehab, but mostly positive ones. What has your experience been?

Artificial joints wear out just like human ones. How long has your joint replacement lasted? If you have replaced a replacement, what has that experience been like?

I am not expecting to begin a career in mountain climbing or to do a triathlon, but if I’m going to go through more surgery, will I be able to walk the factory and navigate stairs without rushing to pop three Advil?

Please respond to the blog, because with millions of joint replacements being done each year, with or without Obamacare, I am not the only person reading this who could learn from your experience.

Question: What has your experience with joint replacement surgery been like?

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18 thoughts on “Advice Please – Should I Get a New Knee?

  1. Bob

    My now 60 year old wife went around 15 years without any cartilage in one knee due to racquetball/softball injuries. The wear on the bone was so severe that she was getting bow legged on one side, and the ligament was stretching. Her doctor kept saying she was too young for knee replacement. 10 years ago, she went to a different DR who said “what are you waiting for?”. I believe she had a Zimmer with cobalt chrome and zirconium oxide against high density polyethylene? installed. Swelling and recovery took several months, but she’s been pain free since and would never go backwards. There are many risks to surgery and implants, but she has had no complications.

  2. Tim Killough

    I had hip replacement surgery in February of this year. I had problems with hip pain and back pain for years prior to the surgery. I was only off work for thirteen days, and never had to use a cane or a walker. The joint has made a big difference in my mobility and has helped with the back pain caused by compensating for the bad hip. Would I do it again? Absolutely, without a doubt!

  3. mongo46538

    Get a Biomet Knee. You may even be able to get by with a partial (see Oxford) to preserve as much soft tissue as possible. Elkhart General or Orthopedics Northeast.
    Biomet has the most progressive science in the field and the most advanced machining practices. Also check out Signature Knee guides for custom (Patient Matched) fit for the least possible amount of healthy bone resection levels, resulting in longer implant duration before possible revision surgeries. Of course a lot of this depends on your Surgeon.

    Good Luck!

  4. Mary Chapin

    Consider “Carticel”:

    It uses your body’s own cultured cells to form new hyaline-like cartilage in your knee. My son is waiting to have his cartilage grown right now and then will have this surgery.

  5. Danny Van Lant

    Had both of my hips done several years ago. Three months a part. Had replaced on a Monday. Had less pain after operation than when I walked into hospital. No pain meds needed. Back at work the next Monday. Fortunately I have a desk type job. Business owner. Piece of cake both times. Life changing to be rid of pain and so much more mobile.
    Had my knee replaced on the Monday before Thanksgiving last year. Extremely painfull. Went back to work the next Monday but could only handle 3 to 4 hours a day the first couple of weeks. Very painfull rehab but kept with it. That’s the key. Woke up one morning about 6 weeks later and the pain was all gone. Absolutely wonderfull now. Would highly recomend it. Work very hard with the exercises. That’s the key. When not exercising keep elevated and iced.

  6. Steve Schreffler

    I had othoscopic surgery on my right knee in Feb 1993 to remove broken cartilage. I then underwent PT and still had significant pain. Within 4 months I went thru another operation that removed more torn cartilage and some bone. After going thru another 8 weeks of therapy I decided to live with the pain since nothing seemed to work. About two years ago I decided to see another highly recommended surgeon in Milford, MA who suggested cortizone treatments. This held me over until I decided to have my knee replaced. My surgery was on Monday 3/14/11, I was up on crutches Tuesday, and went home Thursday afternoon. The knee motion machine was delivered on Friday and I followed the doctor’s instructions and even pushed it further. I was back to work in two weeks on crutches, one week with a cane, and on the third week a followup visit with the surgeon walking in on my own two legs. My surgeon looked over my new xrays, examined the knee and scar, and congratulated me on breaking the record. He said where I was in 3 weeks, most of his patients are in 8 weeks post surgery. My only reason in mentioning this is – if your determined ( or stubborn enough) to get on with your life, then your recovery time will be much faster. Granted I still have some days where the muscles are sore, but if I had the choice to do it over again I definately would. Just go for it Lloyd and don’t let your knee control your life!! Steve

  7. John Callen

    I had a total knee replacement done on my left knee on 12/20/2010. I had been toying with having the procedure done for a number of years, but kept watching the technology in anticipation of a new breakthrough, or new implant. After talking with my orthopedic surgeon about advances in the technology, I finally decided that it was time to just get it done. The surgery went over with no problems and I was up and walking that evening. My surgeon ordered a CPM (continuous passive motion) machine which made a world of difference in my recovery. And the physical therapists that I worked with were absolutely awesome. Of course, being committed to recovering made all the difference in the world. It’s now +6 months post-surgery and my knee almost feels natural. I travel quite a bit for my job and the other day had to dash between concourses at O’Hare to make my connection. After getting to the gate, I realized that I hadn’t even given my knee any thought. Previously, I would have been in agony. As far as advice goes, who your orthopedic surgeon is and his support staff makes all the difference in the world. Also, where you have it done makes a difference. I found out that the hospital I went to was independently recognized as the best orthopedic program in the state of Oregon. I can’t say enough about the physical therapists that I worked with. The surgeon does the initial work, but the physical therapists really do make a huge difference in your recovery. As far as the actual implants go, both Zimmer and Stryker have high tech metals and high wear polymers. Ask your surgeon which system he uses and why. Finally, when you make the decision to get it done, don’t keep second guessing – just do it. You’ll be glad you finally took care of it. Good luck, Lloyd!

  8. Debbie Rudy

    I have many friends/relatives that have had major knee problems. Some had knee replacements. Ricky’s cousin in LA had one a few weeks ago and her recovery is going fine. She seems really happy to have done it. Another friend just completed a series of injections of a material that somehow mimics cartilage in the knee. The effects are supposed to last about a year. I can put you in touch with her about it.

    Regardless, I say go for doing something to improve the quality of your life. You enjoy being active. Your soul and spirit are very young. And, you are not old chronologically, either! If medical technology can helpmake the “outsides” cooperative with what’s going on “inside”, go for it! Even if it means some struggle, inconvenience, and discomfort in the short term, in the long run it’s going to be worth it. You like fully experiencing life. It’s important to you. Go for it!

  9. Barbara Donohue

    Hi, Lloyd,

    Don’t know if partial resurfacing of your knee would do the trick, but here are a couple of different options I’ve discovered in my travels as a techie writer.

    When I was at a robotics trade show researching for a “How It Works” article for TMW, I met Bill Townsend of Barrett Technologies, manufacturer of the very cool robotic arm used in this Joint resurfacing surgery:

    Last week I attended a Society of Manufacturing Engineers tour at STD Med in Stoughton, Mass. for a tour. They do lots of machining, plus assembly, product development, etc., etc. They developed this partial knee resurfacing technology:
    (In case you’re interested, their screw machine division is

    Best wishes to you,


  10. Cheryl Ivanovich

    Kinda glad you have this question posted. I recently told my Dr. that I was going to wait a few years to have mine done and he actually laughed at me and said that I would not be able wait that long. I know some people that have had them done in the recent past, last couple of years, who are not having any problems………….yet. I agree that these will need replacement and will not last since I am so young, (55) When they were done in the past, it was usually with people much older. Odds were they didnt outlive their replacements so the data just isnt in. I will sit back and keep ears/eyes open.

  11. Dennis K. Graham

    My surgery was done by Dr. Timothy Williams here at St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. Before visiting him I tried Synvisc (rooster comb) and found it did not provide me any relief from pain. I had been prescribed Oxycodiene for pain and been taking a regimen of ant-inflammatories and was so bow-legged that it looked like I had been riding horses for fifty years, mind you I was only 53. I had a previous motorcycle accident where the miniscus was removed 31 years ago and I continued to play LaCrosse until I was 47. It was alot of fun but by now the pain was so excrucating I was pulling off the road with my vehicle while driving to regain my composure from the pain. See Dr. Williams and get his advise, he is one of the most successful surgeons here in the midwest. Also there is a little Russian therapist who will help you recover, mind you when it starts to hurt he will push you harder and he always seems to be out of reach when you want to react. His name is Alex and he works for a company contracted through St. Francis.
    I can tell you I would do it all over again, because of the range of motion I now have and the fantastic results I now have. I can run now (I couldn’t walk without a cane), but they discourage that because of the brinelling effect of any repacement joint against the bone but I can still play basketball, tennis and yes I can even bowl. Thanks Doc.!!!! I too was very hesitant before surgery.

  12. William Mackay (Retired)

    Hi my brother in law had both of his knees replaced 10 years ago
    ( they only do mens that way because they have enough upper body strength
    to get up on a walker for rehab) he had them done in November and was snow blowind in January –It has been wonderful-he gets around easily — rides bike –it gave him a new lease on life and this was after many years of pain of arthritis. Go for it

  13. Lloyd Graff

    Thank you all for the comments. I am pursuing the knee replacement option. Having been through so many eye surgeries and the heart surgery it is hard to gear up for another one or two, but the upside probably trumps the miseries.

    I am truly grateful for the kind and caring sharing.

  14. Elsie

    I wasin dreadful knee pain for years. Had arthroscopic surgery in August 2001, Made little to no difference due to lots of arthritis. Every doctor I saw said that I was too young to replace the knees. Yet, every step I took was so painfilled. I dreaded going out. I hated vacations. Life was clearly not fun. I was 51 at the time. In 2005, after a bout with another illness, I had both knees replaced-one in August and one in early October. Had it done by Dr. Richard Burger at Rush Orthopedics in Chicago. I took pain meds after each surgery for only one day. I went home the morning after surgery. Off the crutches in two days. Started PT at home by day three. I am pain-free now. Life is wonderful! I can dance, do my yoga and flex-fit classes. We have visited the desert in New Mexico and climbed the White Sand dunes. I have a young granddaughter now and can run with her, sit on the floor, and get up off the floor. For each surgery I took three weeks off work – not because I had to but because I could. I say go for it. Just get the right team. No one needs to live in pain in this day and age.

  15. Jerry Johnson

    Go the Stem Cell Therapy route. Much less down time, and much less chance of infection.

    In addition to Regenexx, the real pioneer or the procedure is Dr. Joseph Purita at the Boca Raton Orthopedic Group in Florida. He did Colon’s shoulder (pitcher for the Yankees). Colon could hardly pick up a baseball prior to the procedure, and 6 weeks after is throwing 97 MPH fast balls and just pitched a shut out.

    Regardless of who you choose, you will need to send xrays and an MRI of the problem joint to them for evaluation. For the stem cells to work, there has to be be “stuff” there to regenerate.

    This may help in your decision making process. Since a Vietnam injury, I had a badly bowed right leg. I had my right knee totally replaced on 3-23. Rehab is a bitch, and it is lengthy. With the TKR, my leg is now straight and mechanically loading my left hip differently than it has been for the last 40 years – hence, severe pain in my left hip. To avoid another surgery, I went to Dr. Purita and had the following Stem Cell procedure done on 6-29 (this Wednesday).

    My Fat Stem Cells
    My Bone Marrow stem cells (harvested from the ilium area of my hip)
    Platelet Rich Plasma (my blood)
    Human Growth Hormone (if you are no longer a professional athlete)

    All of this was harvested from me, and then injected into my left hip joint. The injection of the components is very painful since the hip is such a tight joint.

    Part of the procedure is to have the injection intentionally create inflammation so the bodies natural healing process attacks the injected joint to assist the stem cells in the healing process. Be prepared. This is inflammation unlike anything you have ever experienced. I required a wheel chair at the airport on both ends of the trip. I was just barely ambulatory. Knees may be a bit less painful.

    So………….I had it done on 6-29 and it is now 7-1. The pain is diminishing but still intense. Hard to get comfortable in any position; sleep almost impossible. I am told that within ~ one to two weeks, it will be like a switch being thrown in my body and the pain will instantly disappear. Looking forward to that.

    LLoyd, this is not yet FDA approved anywhere, so Insurance will not cover it, and it is expensive. Additionally, your orthopedist will poo poo the entire procedure if they haven’t bought into the technology. Remember, they don’t make $ unless they cut. Hard for them to accept that in the future, the needle just may be replacing the scalpel.

    I’ll be more than happy to keep you posted on my progress. Shoot me an email with your cell phone number –

    One final thing. Medi Vet Australia has been doing this virtually identical procedure for many years with Veterinarians around the world treating all types and levels of animals.The results have been absolutely astounding, and remember that there is no placebo effect in animals.

  16. Vince Smith

    I have had both knees done at 55 years old. Best thing I have ever done. Lived with pain for 7 or 8 years and now no pain at all. I also played a lot of basketball and my career is over. But you can golf, bike ride do many things that you could not do with intense pain.

  17. Jim Rohde

    I had bilateral hip replacement at age 42 due to severe arthritic deterioration. I had BioMet custom implants because of my young age. The surgery was done by Dr. Stulberg at Northwestern University Hospital in Chicago and has made a huge difference in my life. I can walk without hip pain and no longer have a limp.

    Know your doctor and what he is putting in you. All implants aren’t created equal.


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