Can You Be Too Young for a Knee Replacement?

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

I am 51 years old and have had osteoarthritis since I was 35.  It is worse in my knees, and I am having to take Vioxx (50 mg a day) plus Tylenol or Ultram for pain relief.  My doctor tells me I am too young for a knee replacement.  Is this true? If so, what other alternatives are there?

Doctor's response

We are not able to say what is medically correct in any particular case.  The timing of a total knee replacement involves a sensitive discussion between the treating doctor and the patient.  Depending on the situation, total knee replacement is even offered to patients much younger than 50 years of age.  There are many factors that must be evaluated including overall health, activities, prior surgical procedures, etc.

When a patient has severe degeneration of the knee joint from Osteoarthritis, aside from total knee joint replacement, the following are among options that are often considered:

  1. Maintaining current functional situation for now.  Using ice after use, minimizing injury.
  2. Physical Therapy
  3. Adding pain-relieving medication such as acetaminophen/Tylenol, ibuprofen/Nuprin, Motrin-IB, naproxen/Aleve, Glucosamine/Chondroitin
  4. Aspiration and injection of the joint with cortisone medication.
  5. Aspiration and injection of the joint with hyaluronate/Synvisc, Hyalgan
  6. Arthroscopic surgery
  7. Acupuncture
  8. Combinations of the above

Thank you for your question.

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018