Will a knee replacement really make life better?

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Many older adults have pain from knee osteoarthritis, a condition in which cartilage in the joints wears away. But when is it time for joint replacement? An observational study published March 28, 2017, in The BMJ suggests that a new knee improves quality of life only in certain cases. The study included over 7,400 middle-age and older adults who already had knee arthritis or were at high risk for the condition. Compared with people who didn't have knee replacement, those who had the surgery during the 26-year study period appeared to have a better quality of life afterward. However, the improvements were minimal, except in people who were less physically functional before the surgery because of more severe arthritis symptoms. The authors suggest that the high costs of knee replacement may be justified only in those who are severely affected by arthritis. What if your symptoms aren't severe? As we reported last month, it may be possible to delay or avoid knee surgery by strengthening your leg and core muscles, losing weight, and improving range of motion.