Knee Arthroplasty (Replacement) Questions for the Provider

Knee arthroplasty (replacement) is a major decision for both you and your loved one. Know the questions to ask.

Helpful Highlights

  • Write down questions a few days in advance to make sure all concerns are included.

  • Do not limit yourself to these questions; ask others as you think of them.

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Your loved one's provider and healthcare team will provide information and instructions to help prepare for surgery. Never hesitate to ask questions. The following list of questions can help you and your loved one during a discussion with the orthopedic surgeon who will perform the surgery.

While it is likely that you and your loved one will already have the answers to these two questions, we offer them as a reminder...

  • Is joint arthroplasty (replacement) the best treatment right now? Are there other treatments should we think about or attempt before committing to replacement surgery?

  • What are the risks if my loved one does not have surgery?

Understanding the implant

  • Which prosthesis was chosen and why, and how will it be secured once implanted?

  • What is the typical lifespan of the implant? What can be done to prolong the life of the implant? How will we know if it starts to break down? 

  • What are the short-term and long-term complication rates for things such as breakage, clicking, the device not working right, and unidentified pain?

  • Are there resolutions for these problems without another surgery?

Surgical approach

  • Where will the incision be, and what size will it be?

  • How long will the surgery take?

  • Will any other muscles or tissues be disrupted and what does that mean for healing and recovery?

  • Will there be a drain from the surgical site? For how long?

Risks and complications

  • What is your (the orthopedic surgeon's) infection rate?

    • Note that this question is likely to offend some surgeons, though it's your right to know and they should answer you. If it is higher than 3%, probe further and ask why. (According to JAMA, 2023, surgical site infections occur in 0.5-3.0% of patients.)

    • While surgical site infections (SSI) do happen, despite the surgical team's best efforts, and most are easily treated with antibiotics, a surgeon with a high SSI rate is a good reason to meet with another orthopedic surgeon.

  • How will you know you’re operating on the correct side?

  • What particular risks does my loved one face, and how likely are they to have complications? What can we do to lower those risks?

  • Is there anything we can do before surgery to increase the potential for a successful outcome?

  • Even with a successful surgery and full recovery, what do we have to be concerned about regarding the implant in the future?

  • What are the short-term and long-term risks of anesthesia for someone this age and with these health conditions?

  • Who do we contact after surgery if there are questions or problems?


  • How long will my loved one be in the hospital? How soon after surgery will they be getting up and moving?

  • How much pain will there be following surgery? What can we do to manage the pain? When will the pain go away?

  • How long will the dressing need to stay on? Will I need to learn to change it?

  • How should my loved one sleep during recovery and rehab? Do they need any special cushions?

  • Are there mobility or movement restrictions following surgery and how long will those be in effect?

  • Will rehab be done inpatient, outpatient, or at home?

  • What's involved in rehab and how long will my loved one be in it?

  • Will there be increased pain with rehab and what can we do to manage it?

  • Will my loved one be able to walk without pain? Climb stairs?

  • What activities should my loved one avoid and for how long?

  • How soon before my loved one can ride in a car? Drive their own car? Fly?

  • Do we need to do anything special during long-distance travel (more than an hour or two)?

  • Will the artificial knee set off metal detectors?

  • When can my loved one resume activities such as gardening, golf, swimming, tennis, and hiking?

  • How long should my loved one wait to have sex?

  • Will there be follow-up appointments needed? When is the first follow-up appointment? And how regularly after that?

  • Will there need to be additional surgeries? Under what circumstances?

Questions for the physical and/or occupational therapist

After knee arthroplasty (replacement)...

  • How does my loved one safely rest and sleep?

  • How does my loved one safely sit down and stand up?

  • How does my loved one safely reach for objects?

  • How does my loved one safely get dressed?

  • How does my loved one safely toilet and bathe?

  • How does my loved one safely walk?

  • How does my loved one safely go up and down stairs?

  • How does my loved one safely have sex?

  • What chores can safely be done?

  • How does my loved one safely get into and ride in a car and on a plane?

No content in this app, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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