The best time to get total knee replacement surgery will depend on several factors, such as the severity of your symptoms and the stage of your condition.

Every year, nearly 700,000 total knee replacement (TKR) surgeries are performed in the United States, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

TKR surgery is a definitive treatment option for knee osteoarthritis. It’s typically recommended as a final treatment method.

TKR may feel like a new lease of life for many people. For example, the AAOS suggests it could help:

  • reduce symptoms like pain
  • increase mobility and function
  • improve quality of life

Like any surgery, however, TKR could be daunting. Deciding whether or not to go ahead and when to do surgery involves both personal and practical considerations.

Keep reading to learn more about when to have TKR surgery.

A treatment plan for knee osteoarthritis may include a combination of treatments. According to the American College of Rheumatology and Arthritis Foundation (ACR/AF), these may include:

These less invasive knee treatments could help improve your condition by relieving inflammation and reducing the pressure on your knee. However, they can’t restore damaged cartilage in your joints caused by degeneration.

TKR surgery involves resurfacing part of your knee with a prosthetic device that performs the same function as your knee. It’s usually made of ceramic, metal, or plastic.

Approximately 90% of TKRs are successful for at least 15 years, according to the AAOS.

Less invasive surgeries like arthroscopy may help relieve pain by removing particles inside the knee. However, experts don’t recommend this intervention for people with degenerative knee diseases, such as osteoarthritis.

If you’re still experiencing severe symptoms of knee osteoarthritis after trying other treatments, you may have advanced osteoarthritis. This is the most severe stage of knee osteoarthritis.

In this stage, the cartilage in the affected knee has almost or fully degenerated. This may cause your bones to rub against each other, leading to severe pain and restricted mobility that could impact your quality of life.

You may also develop deformity of the joint and contracture, which is a decreased range of motion.

Many people put off surgery until pain and mobility problems become unbearable. Surgery is, after all, a big deal. It can be costly and disruptive to your routine. In addition, there is always a risk.

However, a doctor may recommend TKR if you have advanced osteoarthritis.

A doctor may recommend TKR surgery if you’re at a higher risk of developing complications without surgery. For example, not having TKR may lead to:

  • other problems beyond the knee joint, such as in your back and hips
  • weakening and loss of function in muscles and ligaments
  • further degeneration of the knee joint
  • difficulty performing day-to-day tasks, such as driving, walking, and doing household chores
  • decline in overall and cardiovascular health due to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle
  • increased risk of weight gain, which could impact your overall health
  • increased risk of mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression

Before recommending surgery, an orthopedic surgeon will conduct a thorough examination of your knee. This may include X-rays and an MRI to see the inside of it.

They will also review your medical history to see if you’re at risk of developing complications after TKR surgery.

You may have an increased risk of developing an infection after TKR if you have certain lifestyle habits or underlying health conditions, such as:

You may also have a higher risk of blood clots if you’ve had one before or if you have hypercoagulability (thick blood).

Learn more about a TKR evaluation and questions to ask a doctor.

Consider the following factors when deciding on a date for TKR surgery:

  • Will there be someone to take you to and from the hospital?
  • Will someone be able to help you with meals and other daily activities during recovery?
  • Can you get the date of your choice locally, or will you need to go further afield? If so, will you be able to return easily to the hospital for follow-up appointments?
  • Is your accommodation set up for moving around easily, or would you be better off staying with a family member for a few days?
  • Can you find someone to help with children, pets, and other dependents for the first few days?
  • How much will it cost, and how soon can you get the funding?
  • Can you get time off work for the dates you need?
  • Will the date fit in with your caregiver‘s schedule?
  • Will the surgeon or doctor be around for follow-ups?

You may need to spend 1–3 days in the hospital after surgery, and it can take 6 weeks to get back to normal activities.

Learn more about what to expect during the recovery stage.

What is the best age to have a knee replacement?

Research suggests the ideal age to get TKR is 70–80 years old, as younger people are more likely to require revision surgery. However, this may be due to general life expectancy, as 90% of TKR surgeries function well after 15 years and 82% after 25 years.

Is it better to have a knee replacement sooner or later?

Surgeries performed sooner after receiving a diagnosis of severe osteoarthritis of the knee typically have a higher success rate than when the cartilage is severely damaged.

What are the signs of needing a knee replacement?

You may require TKR surgery if your current treatment plan isn’t working, you have severe knee osteoarthritis, or your symptoms are severely impacting your day-to-day activities.

There’s no exact way to determine the best time for TKR surgery.

Some people may not be able to have one at all, depending on their age, weight, medical conditions, and other factors.

It’s important to work with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of action for you.

Here are some questions people often ask when considering TKR surgery.