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When You Should Think Twice

A knee replacement may not be the best choice in some cases:

  • Infections. If you’ve had a recent infection, you’ll need to get it treated before surgery. For example, don’t postpone dental care for gum and teeth infections. Taking care of this will lower the chance of infection in your new joint, which is a serious problem that can lead to more surgery.
  • Other health issues. A history of heart or lung problems, diabetes, or blood clots may make you more likely to have trouble with the surgery. Your doctor will want to get these health issues under control before deciding to operate. He may also suggest you lose weight or quit smoking.
  • Unclear cause of knee pain. "Is your knee really causing your pain?" says Lajam. "Sometimes you get pain from the low back that causes your knee pain. Sometimes people with bad hip arthritis have pain in the knee." Work with your doctor to make sure you've found the real source of your pain. If you don't, your knee may still hurt just as much months after surgery.

Next Steps

Are you getting a new knee? Here are a few things to know:

  • Make plans for help. You won't be able to drive or get around for several weeks, so you'll need help with errands and everyday chores. A support system will be very important, Lajam says. "I ask people: Do you have pets? Do you have stairs? Who does your shopping? Think about these things now so you're not worrying about your cat when you're trying to recover."
  • Plan to make changes. Keep up with your physical therapy so your joint and muscles get strong and heal. Even after you recover from surgery, you may have to make a few lifestyle changes. If your weight wasn't healthy before, it's a good idea to get fit. A healthy diet and exercise should be key now.