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When Is the Right Time for Joint Replacement?

Orthopedic surgeon and hip and knee replacement specialist Kevin Lindgren, M.D., discusses how to know if it’s time for a joint replacement.

Hip or knee arthritis is a long-term, chronic condition that tends to get worse over time. While there are many things you can do to protect your arthritic joint and ways to make getting through a flare-up easier, the broken-down cartilage in the joint will provide less protection, making the pain, stiffness, and inflammation worse. But when is the right time for joint replacement? How do you know when it’s time to talk with your doctor? We spoke with Summit hip and knee replacement specialist Kevin Lindgren, M.D., to find out.

Did I wait too long for joint replacement?

“I hear patients say all the time in my practice, ‘Did I wait too long?’ or ‘I wish I hadn’t waited so long’ for joint replacement,” Dr. Lindgren said. “I tell them, ‘You didn’t wait too long. You waited the right amount of time for you.’”

The fact is, joint replacement is major surgery. It’s understandable that patients may choose to wait. When a patient finally feels comfortable pursuing surgery, they can still reap life-changing effects. “It’s a big surgery, but it’s life-changing,” Dr. Lindgren said. “The process around joint deterioration takes years, which means it has already changed the person’s life — it affects decisions about what to do and what activities to avoid. The fix for severe arthritis can be equally great. There is a significant improvement in quality of life.”

Some patients worry that they have further damaged their joint by waiting too long for joint replacement surgery, but Dr. Lindgren is quick to reassure them. “You didn’t do anything to your joint by waiting that can’t be fixed,” he said.

Am I too old — or too young — for joint replacement? When is the right time?

In a word, no. “I’ve performed joint replacements on teenagers, and I’ve performed joint replacements on people in their 90s,” Dr. Lindgren said. “There tends to be an average age for joint replacement, but there’s no perfect age or time.”

Younger people seeking joint replacement are often very active and athletic. “They would rather have joint replacement surgery now, so they can use the joint earlier and reap the benefits for longer,” Dr. Lindgren said.

On the other hand, older adults may say, “I’ve made it this far — perhaps I should just continue to deal with it.” Dr. Lindgren encourages people dealing with arthritis pain — no matter how old they are — to talk with a joint replacement specialist. “You don’t need to suffer just because you’re older,” he said.

When to seek treatment for your arthritis

Arthritis doesn’t have to spell the end of an active life. If you are experiencing worrisome symptoms or persistent pain, the renowned arthritis specialists at Summit Orthopedics can help. Start your journey to healthier joints. Find your arthritis expert, schedule an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a consultation.

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