knee surgery decision

How Do I Know if I Need Knee Surgery?

Are you experiencing unexplained pain and stiffness in your knee when doing simple everyday activities like walking, exercising, climbing stairs, or possibly even while doing nothing all? If this pain impacts the quality of your life and daily functioning it might be time to visit your doctor. By no means does this mean that you need surgery, but it is a good first step to getting to the cause of your pain and seeking the necessary medical treatment to make you more comfortable. It is possible, as you begin this journey, that you find that you may need surgery down the line, but this is not a given and it is a decision your doctor would never rush you into.

Perhaps you have already been diagnosed with osteoarthritis but everything you have been doing to treat the pain thus far does not seem to be working. Instead, the pain you are experiencing, along with the possible instability, loss of function and stiffness is severely impacting your ability to complete daily tasks and your enjoyment of fun activities. If this is the case you may be a candidate for knee surgery.

Having knee surgery is a big decision, and while there is no doubt that a knee replacement (arthroplasty) or keyhole surgery (arthroscopy) can change your life for the better, it is not for everyone. One crucial fact to keep in mind is that these surgeries are major surgical procedures that carry risks and require postoperative rehabilitation. Surgery, in this case, is not an ‘easy cure’. In fact, at Cape Hip and Knee, we prioritise joint preservation over joint replacement, where appropriate. As specialists in joint preservation, we discuss this important decision with you to ensure you are on the right path to recovery. 

What is Osteoarthritis?

“Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones wears down over time. Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine.”1

What are the different types of knee surgery?

At Cape Hip and Knee, we offer the following surgical procedures on the knee:

  • Knee Arthroscopy: A knee arthroscopy, or keyhole surgery, is a minimally invasive procedure that enables Orthopaedic Surgeons to perform joint procedures or diagnostic tests.
  • Total Knee Replacement: Total knee replacement surgery is designed to replace your damaged knee joint with a replica artificial joint. The artificial joint used in knee surgery consists of high-grade plastic and metal components held in place by special bone cement. Knee replacement procedures aim to relieve severe stiffness, pain and limitations in walking to ultimately improve the quality of your life.
  • Knee Revision: Knee Revision is only needed should there be a failure of the knee replacement or when your implanted components wear out. Advancements in medical technologies and refinement of surgical approaches ensure that patients can benefit from better outcomes with shorter recovery times and lower prosthesis failure rates. Even in young patients, a prosthesis may last a lifetime. Unfortunately, in some cases the implant bearing can become worn and may need to be replaced. This is unlikely to occur before 15-20 years. Joint revision surgeries are generally very complex and challenging procedures as each case is unique.

Did you know? Knee replacement is a routine surgery performed on more than 600,000 people worldwide each year. More than 90% of people who have had total knee replacement experience an improvement in knee pain and function.2

What are the signs of needing knee surgery?

Most patients who end up with a knee replacement suffer from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or physical injury to the knee causing knee pain, inflammation and limited function. Typically, you would first treat knee pain with non-surgical options, such as various medications, injections, rest, ice, dieting, muscle strengthening and physiotherapy. However, for some, these treatments are not enough in the long term, and surgical options need to be discussed with your Orthopaedic Surgeon.

Some things you would consider:

  • Is your pain not going away even when you are not using your knee, and possibly getting worse?
  • Is your pain affecting your sleep, perhaps preventing you from sleeping?
  • Are you battling to get around and feeling less mobile than you did before?
  • Is climbing stairs, walking, dressing or getting out of bed, chairs or your bath becoming more difficult?
  • When you try your usual pain-relief methods, do you feel like they are not working effectively or at all?
  • Does your knee ache during and after exercise?
  • Is your knee stiffer, possibly swollen (change in the way it looks) and able to bend less?
  • Do you experience stiffness in your knee when you have been sitting or lying for long periods, like at work, in a car or when you wake up from a long nap?
  • Does it feel like your knee is “grating, clicking or locking?

In determining whether you are a good candidate for knee surgery, our knee specialists will assess your knee’s range of motion, stability and strength and advise you on the best possible route. They will help you make an informed decision on knee surgery so that you can enjoy a more mobile and pain-free lifestyle. If you like the sound of that, contact us for a consultation today.

You can also find more helpful information about the Difference Between Arthroplasty and Arthroscopy, Recovery After Arthroplasty and various other helpful articles under our articles page with frequently asked questions answered under the procedures tab.


  1. Mayo Clinic (org)
  2. Consensus Statement on total knee replacement. NIH Consens State Sci Statements. 2003 Dec 8-10;20(1):1-34


How Do I Know if I Need Knee Surgery?