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There are a number of television commercials for knee-replacement devices showing elderly and middle-aged people doing all sorts of crazy things. Even the names of these devices speak to the wonderful active life you’ll have—how about the “Get-Around Knee”? Let’s instill a little science into the hype and look at real activity levels after knee-replacement surgery. It turns out that very few patients are able to return to a healthy active lifestyle.

Most patients mistakenly believe that getting a joint replaced is as easy as getting a part replaced in a car. Knee replacements are major surgeries that involve the amputation of bones and the insertion of an artificial prosthetic device. The risk of a heart attack or stroke skyrockets immediately after a knee replacement. In addition, high levels of pain are common, with the most common pain score being five out of 10 one year out from the procedure. In addition, many patients end up needing prescription pain medication long after the surgery.

A study reported in the September 2015 issue of the Journal of Arthroplasty follows on the work of other researchers who have examined activity after hip- or knee-replacement surgeries. Those studies demonstrated that few people return to the types of activity they desire. Activity trackers worn by patients allowed researchers to compare what the patients thought they should be able to do once their joint was replaced versus the activity they actually were able to achieve. Only 5 percent or less achieved anything approaching normal physical activity.

Don’t be fooled by the commercials. Multiple studies have shown that patients rarely get back to the types of activities seen in these ads after hip and knee replacement. In addition, this government-funded study was one of the first to use electronic activity trackers that aren’t susceptible to the hopes and dreams of the patient. Previous studies had relied on questionnaires the patients filled out listing activities they hoped to be able to do. The reality is that only 1 in 20 people return to normal activity levels.


“Knee Replacement Activity Level” first appeared as a post on the Regenexx blog.
Like all medical procedures, Regenexx procedures have a success and failure rate.
Not all patients will experience the same results.