Is Knee Replacement Safe for Older Adults?

Medically Reviewed

You might think you're too old to benefit from a total knee replacement. But a 2008 study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that some osteoarthritis patients 75 and older appeared to benefit greatly from joint replacement surgery.

Researchers followed 174 elderly patients (average age, 75) with severe knee or hip osteoarthritis for 12 months. During that time, 29 percent had joint replacement surgery. Although most of them took several weeks to recover, the long-term results were less pain and disability.

Postoperative complications, including a wound infection, anemia, delirium, or a blood clot in the lungs, occurred in 17 percent. Thirty-eight percent had pain for longer than a month. However, on average, those who had surgery were walking in less than two weeks and doing housework after seven. Their scores on a standard scale measuring pain and function had improved 50 percent after a year. And patients over 75 had similar benefits and recovery as those in the 65-to-74 age range.

Many people who opted out of surgery expressed fears about the procedure and recovery. But the study clearly suggests that older people with severe osteoarthritis should at least discuss joint replacement with their doctor.

Read more about joint replacement and how to boost your odds of a successful surgery.