Considering a knee replacement surgery can be a daunting task. Live with pain and decreased function long enough, and just about ANY procedure may seem like a good idea. However, a recent study shows the outcomes of knee replacement aren’t very good at all.
Recovery times for knee replacement surgery show that most patients are able to care for themselves and resume normal daily activities within 6 weeks and drive within 4 to 6 weeks. 1 Further, it can take 3 months or up to an entire YEAR to fully recover and realize total benefits of knee replacement surgery. 2 Postoperatively, a patient will be sent to physical therapy to learn exercises that may or may not speed up the recovery process.
A study published in March of 2017, looked at two very large data sets: the Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI) and the Multicenter Osteoarthritis Study (MOST) to quantify what the quality adjusted life years (QALYs) results were from those patients that underwent knee replacement surgery. The results? Lackluster at best! The study found that total knee replacement within the US cohort of patients with knee osteoarthritis had MINIMAL effects on QALYs at the group level! 3
So, the question is: Why are surgeons still practicing total knee replacement surgeries if it isn’t beneficial? The patient suffers during recovery and to potentially not have any meaningful improvement.
Can stem cells replace a knee? Definitely not. In fact, there isn’t even evidence that in bone-on-bone patients stem cells can survive to regrow any meaningful cartilage. However, that doesn’t mean that stem cells can’t provide pain relief and improved function with minimal cost or downtime to the patient.