Robert Shmerling, M.D., is associate physician and clinical chief of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an associate professor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is an active teacher in the Internal Medicine Residency Program, serving as the Robinson Firm Chief. He is also a teacher in the Rheumatology Fellowship Program and has been a practicing rheumatologist for over 25 years.
I had knee replacement surgery five years ago. How much longer can I expect it to hold up?
There is no way to predict accurately how long an individual knee replacement will last.
The most common estimate of the "lifespan" for a replaced knee is 10 to 15 years. However, the data on which that estimate is based is old and possibly outdated.
Current operations (or even those performed five years ago) may have better results than in the past. One recent study reported that 90% of replaced knees were still in good shape 15 years after the operation.
You may be able to maximize the success of a knee replacement by:
Avoiding excess weight
Avoiding excessive stress on the knee (such as competitive sports or injury)
Having your operation with an experienced surgeon in a hospital that has a high volume of joint replacements
Limiting joint damage from inflammation (for example, the effective treatment of rheumatoid arthritis may prolong the life of a replaced joint)
It is difficult to account for all of the variables that can contribute to the longevity of a replaced knee. So, talk to your surgeon about how to "maintain" your replaced knee and do the best you can to follow this advice.