Dr. Nikhil Pandhi
At North Point ORthopaedics

How to Know if I Need a Knee Replacement?

Dec 10, 2022
 How to Know if I Need a Knee Replacement?
No one wants to have surgery, but knee replacement is often an easy choice when you realize it will eliminate your pain, restore knee function, and let you enjoy your favorite activities. Keep reading to learn when you may need a knee replacement.

Knee replacement surgery is usually the last treatment option when conventional medical care no longer eases your pain or improves your mobility. But replacement surgery (arthroplasty) is a common and incredibly successful procedure that can eliminate your pain and get you back into action again.

If you’re trying to decide when it’s time to consider knee replacement surgery, you can depend on expert guidance from board-certified orthopedic surgeon and joint replacement specialist Dr. Nikhil Pandhi.

If you have any questions about knee pain and your treatment options, don’t wait to schedule a consultation at Nikhil Pandhi, DO, MPH, in Munster, Indiana. In the meantime, here’s what you should know about the criteria for making knee replacement decisions.

Knee conditions causing joint damage

Knee replacement surgery becomes your best (and only) treatment option when a condition causes extensive joint damage. You may face this challenge as a result of:


Advanced osteoarthritis is by far the most common reason patients need a knee replacement. This chronic disease develops as the protective cartilage covering the bones in your joint breaks down, exposing your bones and causing friction between them.

Though osteoarthritis begins with cartilage degeneration, it causes inflammation and widespread injuries throughout your joints, damaging your bones, cartilage, ligaments, and synovium (the tissues lining your knee joint). Damage to the synovium magnifies your pain and joint stiffness because these tissues produce fluids that nourish and lubricate your joint.

Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease. We don’t currently have a cure, and the joint damage only worsens. However, it progresses at a different rate for each person.

For many, osteoarthritis eventually causes such extensive joint damage that replacing part of your joint (unicompartmental knee replacement) or your entire joint (total knee arthroplasty) is the only way to ease your pain and restore joint function.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis may also cause severe knee damage that ultimately requires joint replacement surgery. But there are medications for rheumatoid arthritis (that aren’t available for osteoarthritis), and these medications often protect your joint by putting the disease into remission.

Severe fracture

We surgically repair most knee injuries, but when a fracture causes extensive damage, such as crushing your leg bones or breaking your kneecap into multiple pieces, we may recommend a knee joint replacement.

Osteonecrosis (avascular necrosis)

Osteonecrosis is an uncommon condition that occurs when a bone in your knee joint loses its blood supply. Without a steady supply of blood, bone cells die and your knee joint breaks down. Early treatment often saves your bone, but in an advanced stage, osteonecrosis causes enough damage to require joint replacement.

Disabling symptoms

Deciding when you need a knee replacement primarily depends on your symptoms and how much they affect your ability to get through the day. Most people decide it’s time to consider knee replacement surgery when:

  • Knee pain and stiffness severely limit your mobility
  • Knee pain persists when you’re resting
  • Your knee joint is deformed
  • Diagnostic imaging shows extensive joint damage
  • Conservative treatments like physical therapy and injections fail to ease your symptoms

Your age doesn’t factor into the decision. People of all ages may have enough pain, disability, and knee damage to need a new joint. 

Knee replacement surgery is long-lasting for most people, with artificial joints lasting 15-25 years. But if you get a joint replacement at a young age, you may end up needing another new joint decades later.

If you need help with you knee pain or want to learn more about knee replacement surgery, call Nikhil Pandhi, DO, MPH, or request an appointment online today.