1/3 of Knee Replacements Unnecessary…Why Are They Performing Those Surgeries?

By /

1/3 of knee replacements unnecessary

A new study reports 1/3 of knee replacements unnecessary or medically inappropriate.  How does that happen? Knee replacements are big business in the U.S. The number of knee replacement surgeries being performed is exploding, but is some of that surgery unnecessary? So when do you need a knee replacement?

First, many patients think of a knee replacement surgery like getting a part changed in their car. They simply go into the hospital and walk out with a new knee. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, this is big surgery. How big? The risk of getting a stroke or heart attack is dramatically increased after the knee replacement surgery. In addition, while most patients expect to be pain free, new research shows that many patients still have pain despite the big and dangerous surgery. In addition, in another study, almost half of the patients were are still on medication a year after the knee surgery, with 5/10 pain being the most common pain score after surgery.

To figure out how many knee replacements being performed in the United States were definitely appropriate, inappropriate, or questionable a team of researchers used validated criteria from Europe. They then applied that to an established research database of knee arthritis patients. Shockingly, only 44% of the surgeries were deemed “appropriate”! 22% of the knee replacement surgeries were questionable and 34% were inappropriate. In summary, about 6 in 10 surgeries didn’t have a clear indication that they were needed.

Is this figure surprising? Not so much. We’ve seen aggressive direct to consumer advertising by device manufacturers that focuses on a more active and less infirmed market of patients. I’ve blogged that these commercials often show unrealistic expectations for knee replacement patients-i.e. active and smiling patients running, riding bikes, and basically pretending like nothing ever happened. This marketing push has expanded knee replacement markets by misinforming younger consumers that the surgery will allow them to return to sports. Yet research shows that few knee replacement patients actually return to high levels of activity. In addition, other studies show that about 1/3 of the time, additional diagnostic work-up shows that the knee joint being replaced isn’t even causing the patient’s pain!

The upshot? There’s way too much orthopedic surgery occurring in the United States, so this finding that 6 in 10 knee replacements don’t have a clear indication is not that surprising. Having said that, this surgery carries such a big burden of complications, that this number of excess surgeries is a real societal problem.

Get health and wellness information from a trusted source.

By submitting the form, you are agreeing that you read and consent to our Privacy Policy. We may also contact you via email, phone, and other electronic means to communicate information about our products and services. We do not sell, or share your information to third party vendors.

Category: Knee, Latest News

Is Regenexx Right For You?

Request a free Regenexx Info Packet


Learn about the #1 Stem Cell & Platelet Procedures for treating arthritis, common joint injuries & spine pain.

Join a Webinar


Get fresh updates and insights from Regenexx delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to the Blog


9035 Wadsworth Pkwy #1000
Westminster, CO 80021


Copyright © Regenexx 2020. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy

*DISCLAIMER: Like all medical procedures, Regenexx® Procedures have a success and failure rate. Patient reviews and testimonials on this site should not be interpreted as a statement on the effectiveness of our treatments for anyone else.

Providers listed on the Regenexx website are for informational purposes only and are not a recommendation from Regenexx for a specific provider or a guarantee of the outcome of any treatment you receive.