Is Second Knee Replacement Easier?

How Soon Can You Have A Second Knee Replacement

If you already have one knee replaced, there’s a good chance your other knee is arthritic and also a candidate for a total knee replacement.  Sure some people get lucky and only have one bad knee but most times the other side is almost as bad as the first.

is second knee replacement easier

Hopefully your first knee replacement rehab was a success and you’re on board for your second replacement down the road.  Of course there’s a chance your first one was a little rougher than you had hoped and now you’re worried about getting another.

So how do you decide whether and when to get a second knee replacement?  And is the second knee replacement easier in terms of pain and rehab than the first one? 

These are questions we will discuss below and hopefully make your decision more informed.  I’ll give my perspective from years of seeing patients in my home PT practice, some of whom had both knees replaced over time.

The Second Knee Replacement Is Usually More Difficult Than the First 

Ugh, not the answer you wanted to hear, right?   Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but in my experience this is unfortunately the majority of cases.  There are a few reasons for this and they might not be things you were considering.

First, when you were rehabbing you first knee replacement guess which leg took the brunt of your walking and daily activity.  You guessed it, the bad one!  Sure that second one is getting replaced, but the additional stress from the first replacement rehab has caused extra pain and joint damage in the second.  

Second, its a simple explanation of age and time.  Most people getting their knees replaced aren’t spring chickens.  In fact the average age is around 70 for knee replacements.  Every year that you wait, you’re adding a year of extra damage and arthritic changes.  

However this is not always the case and you could be someone who has great results for each knee replacement.  Please do not lose all hope and let this be a decision maker of whether you get a second knee or not.  I would still highly recommend getting your other knee replaced if it is warranted.

Factors of Knee Replacement Difficulty

Time In Between Knee Replacements

The one piece of advice I would give to anyone who is considering getting their second knee replaced is to not wait too long.  What I mean by that is if both of your knees are equally as arthritic and painful, you know 2 replacements are likely needed.

How Soon Can You Have A Second Knee Replacement

If you have you first knee replaced in January, by the time you get to July that knee should be in excellent condition.  This is a 6 month span of time that would provide plenty of rehab and back to normal movement.  Will it be 100%? No.  But it should feel pretty close.

Now after that first knee is replaced, my suggestion would be to get the second knee done at the earliest 6 months after but no more 12-18 months after the first.  The reason for this is twofold.

First, your knowledge of the rehab physical therapy routine and expectations are fresh in your mind and body.  Once the body starts getting away from rehab mode, the more difficult it is to return back to it.  Stay in the mode and you get better results.

Second, any additional wear and tear on the second knee just becomes more compounded the longer you wait to get it replaced.  This is especially true the older you are in age so waiting just makes each day that much tougher to get through.

I have seen plenty of patients who had the first knee replaced in January and the second in August or September and had great success for each.  

Activity Level After Your First Knee Replacement

My goal as a physical therapist is that 100% of my patients continue to be active and healthy after their first knee is replaced.  While this is completely out of my hands, these are the expectations when I discharge them from home care.

For those that choose wisely and continue to be mobile and active, the chance of an easier knee replacement #2 is much higher.  Maintaining knee flexibility and strength leading up to a replacement surgery is extremely important in rehab success afterwards.

If you already had your first knee replaced and slacked on your activity level afterward, you’re simply reducing the chances of success for your next one.  Hopefully this isn’t the case for you and you put full effort into getting through the second knee successfully.

Bottom line:  Yes, your second knee replacement will likely be more difficult than your first knee but this is not set in stone.  Plan ahead, continue to be active and prepare yourself for the best chances of smooth recovery.

Final Thoughts on Is Second Knee Replacement Easier

  • Second Knee Replacements Are Usually More Difficult Than the First
  • Numerous Factors Can Improve or Lessen Your Success Chances
  • Don’t Let This Issue Stop Your From Getting Your Second Knee Replaced
About Jeffrey Roth MPT

Owner and operator of Roth Therapy Services in Pittsburgh, PA focusing on in home rehabilitation physical therapy services.

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