Knee Replacement At a Young Age: What to Expect….

Given that last year I had my knee rebuilt and had to undergo some time in rehab, I had time to read up on these matters and find new friends on the internet. Here is an outline of what to expect if you have seriously damaged your knee:


Knee Replacement At a Young Age: What to Expect
–Philip J Reed, on behalf of St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center

A knee replacement doesn’t discriminate by age. You may think that since you are only in your teens, 20’s or 30’s that you couldn’t ever possibly find yourself in the position of requiring a knee replacement, but you may be surprised. Even if you’re active and healthy and take excellent care of yourself, your knees may already be working their way to calling it quits.

An active lifestyle doesn’t eliminate you from surgery, and in fact, depending on your preferred activities, you may actually be more at risk for a future knee replacement. If you find yourself in that position you can rest assured that advances in joint replacement and the technologies available at your joint replacement institute have come a long way.

What happens during your actual surgery will depend on the damage to the joint. You may require a partial or even a full joint replacement which will mean removing the damaged areas and replacing them with a man made alternative.

The procedure will obviously be handled by professionals, but the recovery is all up to you. Your local joint replacement institute will set you up with the proper resources that you will need for rehab and recovery but it’s up to you to do the actual work.

Sticking to your prescribed exercises or rehab schedule is very important, as is making the most out of those activities. Though often exhausting and sometimes even painful, the regime is specifically set up with your quick recovery in mind.

Understanding your limitations is also a key to successfully bouncing back after surgery. Pushing yourself is important, but don’t let the foolishness of youth make you push too hard. Taking on too much too soon will set your recovery back rather than let it move forward.

People with an active lifestyle, particularly in youth, are statistically proven to more often than not have healthier lives. This doesn’t mean that you won’t ever face surgery, but it does usually mean that you will recover more quickly. Avoid additional frustration by making sure you follow you’re the rules of your aftercare and you’ll be up a moving again before you know it.

37 responses to “Knee Replacement At a Young Age: What to Expect….

  1. Hello there,

    I myself am looking at possible knee replacement surgery after just having my knee scoped and had badly damaged cartilage removed from my knee. My doctor and his colleague ( 2 of the best orthopedic surgeons in the Oregon coast) said OATS procedure isn’t feasible for the area where my knee is missing cartilage and that I will need a full knee replacement within 5 years if not sooner. I’m only 25 and I’ll I’ve been hearing from friends and family is “Your too young.”

    I will admit I’m scared in getting the knee replacement but I want to be able to live my life with less pain then I have now. How old we’re you when you had your surgery? What exactly did you have done? Any advice you could give me on what to do?

    • Angelo Trujillo

      Im in the same boat with you and your knee situation. Im 32 yrs. old & I have no other option. I was in a severe car accident, & completely destroyed my knee. I have to walk with a cane, & I do not wanna do so anymore. The pain is an everyday thing and over the years I got used to living with it. But the time has come, that I need to do this. What do you think I should do. Please help me.

  2. Having your knee replaced will lessen the pain considerably. At 25 years old, you may have a number of replacements through your life, which of course comes with its own problems.

    Myself, I had my knee rebuilt, and still have the original bones, however, in 10 years of so, when I will be 50, I am likely to face a replacement. Although there have been some successes with partial replacements, and within 10 years, I am hoping that this has advanced on a little.

  3. Angelo Trujillo

    I am 32 yrs. old. I was in a severe car accident in 2005. My knee over the years has gotten worse. I use a cane everyday all day and have been doing so since 2008. I went to a doctor and he gave me 3 options. Live with it as long as I could before knee replacement. Knee fusion, which is totally outta the question. Or do the knee replacement now. I want the replacement, so I can go back to my old lifestyle, which included sports, playing with my daughter, & walking & running as normal as possible. Please help with informative information about knee replacement for someone my age. Thank you very much. I need all the help I can get.

  4. Kathryn Metzger

    Hey I find myself in the same boat as y’all. 25 and a month away from having a total knee replacement. I have bad arthritis and I am bone on bone in my left knee witch is the one that they are operating on. I don’t know if any of y’all have had on this far but I have had 12 knee surgery a before this so I am as ready as I can be. Hope that this helps me not feel like the only young person who’s in this boat…

    • Did you ever have your knee replacement done just curious. I’m now 25 and need a knee replacement done but the doctors said at my age it’s to risky and have the possibility of loosing my knee. I don’t know what to do any more the pain is unbearable I have RA in both knees would appreciate any advice.

  5. I am 42 years old. I was in a severe car accident with a broken femure, torn mcl, pcl, acl. I had 3 surgeries to fix the femur, 2 surgeries to fix the ligaments. The grafts never held. I am in pain and limp daily. Ive finally convinced my doctor I cant take the pain and swelling anymore. Now Who do I go to in Florida for the best Knee replacement surgeon .

  6. Hi, I am daisy just turned 26, and I am actually from Holland but endured a serious knee fracture in the US almost 1,5 years ago. I had 5 surgeries ever since and I have not been able to walk independently without 2 crutches. So I have been in a wheelchair and crutches ever since. In Holland they are really hesitant towards have a total knee replacement under the age of 40. So I went to the best of the best here but the all say that it will make my situation even worse. (Which sounds strange if you think of the fact that besides the pain, I have not been able to take a step on my own anymore, and the reconize this fact) But I am told that if you are young the chances of having a stiff knee are really high. I am not trying to scare anyone, but just being honest. For me, they say that the fake knee won’t make such a difference in my day to day life because according to them I still won’t be able to walk with the fake knee (let alone do,sports, etc)
    I still want to try it, but now they are looking into having a fake leg alltogether. But we will just have to wait and see, I feel really sorry for y’all because I know what this is like. I lost my job, boyfriend, house and sport because of this, but I still always have hope. I am happy to hear all your stories but I am sorry for the circumstances. I hope my story helped. Good luck y’all!

    • I am so sorry to hear about how your injury took such a large part of your life away. I live in Canada and have a bummed knee, had 60% of right lateral meniscus removed and am extremely nervous for what my future holds as I can feel the pain…only a little now, but growing everyday…i am on the edge of being a cripple. All the best to you guys

  7. ps: I’ve had the best orthopedic surgeon in Utah for my first two surgeries, turns out he is one of the reasons why they can not help me anymore now. so I believe that it does not matter if someone is ‘the best’ just make sure you feel good about it and that he has experience with the surgeries on younger people.

  8. Hi, it has been a while since someone posted on here so thought i would follow up. Has anyone had surgery yet? How did it go? I”m 26 and following a serious fall had reconstructive surgery in 2011 to save my knee as UK doctors said I was too young to replace it. I had a total synovectomy, removal of the meniscus, removal of a lot of the damaged knee cap and loss of the fat pad behind the knee cap. As such have now have severe arthritis as I am trying to walk bone on bone and have done for three years. The daily pain, swelling and lack of movements is really affecting all areas of my life and I really want it to stop. I would appreciate any advice or stories if any of you had have surgery yet.
    Thank you for all of your stories, it give you strength that you are not alone.

  9. Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let
    you know a few of the images aren’t loading properly.
    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.

  10. Hello, I’m turning 25 in 2 days and have had 7 knee surgeries so far since I was 17. I never played sports and I never injured my knees, the cartilage just started detirorating starting at 16. I don’t have arthritus and they have no idea why my cartilage can’t stay firm. My right has had bones grafts, cartilage transplant, broke my femur and straightened it with a plate and my left had 2 plugs of bad cartilage replaced with synthetic filling. I’ve been okay for the last 4-5 years but my cartilage has recently gone bad in my right again. I’m getting synvisc shots soon to buy some time and then I’ll be getting a knee replacement as well. Looks like I’ll be on crutches for a while.

  11. Have severe chondromalacia of the patella in both knees and can now only walk with crutches. Has anyone had this condition so bad and what did they do that worked?

  12. Hi

    I was born with no muscles on the inside of both my knees so I dislocated them a LOT growing up…had both knees operated on when I was ten to hopefully rectify the problem and keep me out of a wheelchair. 17xyears later my right leg is as good as it ever will be but my left leg is shot, the knee still pops out from time to time, my ankle is a mess…the discomfort and pain is just a nightmare!
    Last Saturday a horse kicked me and my knee popped out and back in again, went to A&E and had a review today…the doctor told me I have the knee of a fifty year old and that I will most definitely need to have it replaced in the future but for now I should attend physio. I’m thinking why can’t I have the surgery now when I’m young, healthy and relatively fit and cut out the time wasting andxyears of suffering and deterioration ahead of me?
    Has anyone had their surgery yet? How did it go?

  13. Hello Everyone,

    I actually have had a knee replacement in my twenties. I am 23 years old and I had my surgery a month ago. So far my recovery has been going well.

    The reason for my knee replacement was that I grew a Giant Cell Benign Tumor in my left femur and so I had surgery to remove the 6X4X4 cm tumor from by bone. They did a knee reconstruction as well. After the first surgery recovery was difficult. Due to the inactivity I gained weight and was somewhat depressed. My doctor told me that there was a 30% chance that the tumor would come back and sure enough it did.

    After a year and a half the tumor returned so I got a knee replacement.

    I had surgery I am just worried about how the knee replacement will affect my lifestyle and I also want to know how I can prepare for the future knee replacements I will need in the future.

    I hope you all do well,


    • Hello James! I just turned 26 and had both of my knees replaced 6 months ago. I haven’t met anyone else in their 20s with a knee replacement so I understand how worried you are, I was the same. I have a condition where the cartilage in my knees deteriorate and it started about 10 years, had a lot of surgeries to stop it but it just kept deteriorating. The first 3 months after the surgery are hard (especially if you get both knees done). I can’t bend my knees all the way back so no more squatting for me but I can basically do everything else I was able to do before. I can even kind of run when crossing the street now. Its also kind of uncomfortable to wear tight pants but thats no big deal really. You also get used to the clicking inside your knee, I’m really happy and grateful for my knee replacements or else I’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Hope your recovery continues to go well 🙂

      • Not the end of the world. I had my right knee replaced at 29. it was 8 years after i had my knee reconstructed due to a motorcycle crash. My only other options were to get the joint fused in place and that seemed medieval. Or to take narcotic pain relievers to get through the day, that can be a slippery slope. The surgery went great and the physical therapy was torture but the benefit to being young is that you can handle it better and your other joints and muscles are in good shape. Im not totally pain free but most importantly i could get back to work. Ive gone skiing , play softball, exercise etc. I don’t run unless i have too, and at best it would be about a 14 minute mile. all said in done it was a great move. I was told I would have probably 15 years on it before it wore out. Then get a new one. Does anyone have any experience with a seconf replacement after first wears out. im five years into this.

    • Hey James! I hope all is still going well with your recovery. I had osteosarcoma in my femur when I was 10 and had TKR and most of my femur replaced then. I’m now 28 with no complications with the joint. I actually started running a bit a couple of years ago (very slowly, and totally prepared to stop as soon as it starts hurting even slightly), and right now I’m training for a (again, very slow) half marathon. (I don’t recommend that on the record!) It doesn’t “feel” like a normal knee and I’m definitely careful to treat it well, but it doesn’t hurt and I wouldn’t say having it hinders my active lifestyle. Once you’re recovered more, building up some muscle around the joint will help it feel more supported and secure. Hang in there!

    • Hello have you had your knee replacement yet ? I’m 22 had acl reconstruction and 2 loose body removals and now I feel I will need a knee replacement as the first loose body removal was a bone 4cm circumferenced and now I have another bone floating around my knee which I feel myt be bigger hense why I think I need a knee replacement.

  14. Christina, Dave, Hayley,

    Thank you for the support. It’s been about six months since surgery and I am doing better. I walk around with a cane. I have almost all of my range of motion, but I still limp when I walk. I go to physical therapy and progression is slow, but steady. I’m still in school and that is very busy so although I would like to be more diligent in getting stronger, I can’t be.

    I want to do a lot of the things that other people physically do at my university. I want to play sports, do weightlifting, run, hike, and ski. I know I’ll be able to do a few of these things later, but my doctor discouraged me from running.

    I am planning on playing hockey and running in sports (like soccer) because the chase was always something exciting for me. I enjoy intense bouts of exercise rather than elongated steady exercise, which is the only exercise easy on the knee. Does anyone have experience with sports? I plan on getting my legs really strong, stronger than normal so I can counteract any weakness in my joints. It is just a long road to get there.

    Thank you,


    • Hi James, I wouldn’t recommend running. My surgeon had a patient get a knee replacement which is supposed to last 15-20+ years and that guy jogged every morning and wore out the replacement in under 8 years so he had to get it replaced again. I was never really into sports, but I pretty much gave up sports and theme parks since my knees went bad as a teenager. I can work out at the gym but I make sure to stick to things that won’t put too much impact on my knees. I want the replacements to last as long as possible. Or maybe I’m just a little lazy lol. And good luck with your school! It took me longer to finish university because of my past surgeries so I understand how much harder it makes it.

  15. Im just about to turn 30 and my knees are killing me. I have a fairly intense job which i blame the arthritis on. I had arthroscopy on right knee in 2014. Torn plica and stage 3 chondromalcia. Ive done every conservative measure possible. Went to see a surgeon for tkr consult. He strait out refused to operate on me because of my age. Im so frustrated. Every day they hurt, i can barely drive, walking sitting, stairs, even laying in bed. The pain keeps me from so much. How do i find a surgeon that will operate on someone my age? Its under workmans comp so that complicates things more. Occupational disease. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I live in the Willamette valley in oregon. Thanks

  16. Im 18 years old i have the worse knees in new south wales and australia for my age and one of the worse knee cases in Australia my name is Sasha. Ive had so many operations that have been unsuccessful, with both of my knees. Obviously one of my knees is worse than the other its horrible. i can barely walk, sit, sleep, stand can’t do much. the pain is outraging. I’ve had 27 operations in the last 5 years on my knees. Yeah missing out on a teenager life. when i do go for more surgery it may get worse than what it already is, and i thought to myself how much worse can it get. nothing can cure it not even my own body parts from my hips that got sent to a lab to grow to put into my knees that didn’t work. Its hard i understand you all. its very hard i walk so badly that people stare at me because you can notice. my knees disease is called osteochondritis dissecans. not only in my knees i have it in my elbows, and in most of my joints but my knees are the worse.

    • My name is Chris, I am 25 years old and I also have osteochondritis dissecans in my knee. I’ve had 2 surgeries so far and neither has worked. I understand how you feel. It seems like most patients with OCD never actually heal, it’s just one surgery after the other. I’ve missed out a lot in my life too. I just started walking again about 2 weeks ago and I am already feeling symptoms that the fragment is loose and it’s very frustrating. I decided to get OCD surgery so I would be able to run but after I got the surgery I can’t even walk. My doctor also thinks I am too young to get a knee replacement, but I am motivated to find someone here in California who would do it for me. You’re not alone and hopefully one day we can look passed this and actually start living again.

  17. I was 26 when i had my knee replaced at the beginning of 2008, the youngest patient my doctor had ever given a TKR. My cartilege had gone in to full necrosis (cell death), my joint was bone on bone and i couldn’t straighten my knee past a 45° angle. When i wasn’t using a walker, i was using a cane. My doctor said without TKR i would never be able to straighten my leg again, plus when someone is in that much pain, age shouldn’t factor – getting them out of pain is what matters.
    I had my knee replaced with a titanium joint, and i won’t lie, that was the hardest surgery and recovery i have ever been through (and I’ve been through many). There were times i thought i had made the wrong decision because the pain from surgery or physical therapy were so intense. But within weeks i could not only straighten my leg, but i had a full range of motion, something i hadn’t known in years. Having my knee replaced was one of the best decisions i’ve ever made. My doctor told me that, depending on how long i live, the parts will need to be replaced at least 5-8 more times during the span of my lifetime (i need to have them replaced soon!). I think that is well worth the pain relief that I’ve gotten from this surgery. If your doctor is more concerned about your age than helping ease your pain and giving you a better quality of life, go to another doctor, and another, until you find one who will help. Good luck to you all.

  18. I’ve been avoiding knee replacement for years now. I’very had 7 knee surgeries for torn cartilage to a torn acl 6 of the 7 injuries happened just from walking or bending or turning. I currently have torn cartilage but see no point in another pointless “clean up” surgery bc i have two young children and cant afford to be down.knee cap recently just popped out of place and dislocated . I have arthritis in both knees and the pain becomes so unbearable I can’t even get out of bed. Ivery been thinking about just going through with the replacement but been told horror stories and that every 10 to 15 year you’ll probably have to get it replaced again each time removing more and more of you actually bone?! Has anyone had a knee replacement at a young age? How long did it take before you were back up with no crutches? And is it worth it ?

    • Hi Heather, I’m 27 and had both of my knees replace (on the same day) back in Jan 2015 when I was 25. My surgeon said the 10-15 year rule is a little outdated. He thinks bc I’m petite, my replacements could potentially last 20-30 years, and it also depends on how I treat them. He had a patient who jogged everyday and his wore out after 8 years. My replacements were definitely worth it bc my cartilage always deteriorated so fast I ended up living in a wheelchair for months and was always in pain. I couldn’t walk at all and lost all independence. I knew it was gonna be painful (I had 7 surgeries before that) but it’s a rough 3 months and then you can walk do things again. The way I see it, 3 months of hell is worth even at least 10 years of being able to walk and living a pretty normal life. I can’t bend my knees back all the way, but I can walk around for several hours now and I haven’t been able to do that in over 10 years lol.

  19. Thank you everyone for your stories. I’m 38 and have post traumatic arthritis from a patella fracture a few years ago. I recently saw a surgeon and he gave me a cortisone shot and sent me on my way. I will need a knee replacement soon, but know they will drag it out because I am “too young”. I am currently in pain daily and use a cane. I want my life back now and not when I am 50 or 60. It’s comforting to know it can be done.

  20. Sandra Lavine

    Hi there,

    I came to this site to try to determine whether I should wait to have knee surgery or do it now. I was born with knee issues. My patella sits too high on both knees, the outside muscles are stronger than the inside one, and the tendon that lays over the patella is off to outside instead of the middle. I’ve gone my whole life dealing with dislocation after dislocation. Now, my knees dislocate about once a week, and it doesn’t even bother me (well it used to. It bother me). It just pops right back in and I go about my day. When I’m laying down and my legs are straight, my left knee cap sits completely out of socket. Anyway, phycial therapy was useless. The doctors practically laughed at me when I asked if it would help. The orthopedic doctor I saw explained the surgery I will need (I won’t go into detail) and said the recovery will be at least 6 months. What she is concerned about especially is my cartilage, which is continuously scraping off, tiny amounts at a time, when my knees dislocate. She referred me because it’s not a surgery she would be comfortable doing. So I have a five year old at home… should I wait until he is older, or do it while I’m still young and healthy? I’m very active, always have been, but my knees have been swelling up with any excercise lately and chronic pain is hitting hard.

    • Deborah Rummel

      I don’t know how this works on line because I just replied to a 17 year old . If you can read what I wrote but my 17 year old Grandson was born with both of his knees dislocating it is hereditary problem I have it also . You said your knee is out of your socket when you are lying down his is like that all the time . He also is very active even with his knee going out all the time my heart breaks for him . He cannot play sports in high school anymore but he manages to still play ball with his friends goofing around .but I am a nervous wreck. The only good thing is he is not in pain. I just wish something could be done to fix it , I don’t understand with all the new technology why they can’t make it that he could go back playing high school sports again with all his friends . We tell him sports are certainly not everything but it still hurts me that he misses it so much . He does well in school and is a great Grandson and teenager .

    • Deborah Rummel

      Oh and it sound like we were born with the same problem.

  21. My name is Nina, and I am 17 years old. I have had 4 knee surgeries in the past two years for ACL and MCL reconstruction, and several meniscus tears. During my latest knee scope, my doctor discovered that my cartilage is severally damaged and has suggested a total knee replacement or meniscus replacement. I too have heard from all my family and friends that I am far too young for a knee replacement. Any advice? How long did you all wait to have your replacements? Have any of y’all considered a meniscus and cartilage replacement? I committed to play D1 college field hockey but obviously that is no longer an option. I am just hoping for no more problems. Thanks!

    • Hi Nina, I’m sorry to hear that, I was 17 when I started having knee surgeries. I’ve had cartilage replacements in both knees, it is a major surgery but it definitely bought me time before I eventually got both of my knees replaced when I was 25. Total knee replacement should be more of a last resort so I would check all other options first. That being said I am VERY happy with my knee replacements, I’ve had them for 2 years now, I can walk around all day, something I never thought I would be able to do again. I joined a gym, got theme park passes. They can’t bend back all the way (they’re not design to) but I would say I can do almost everything a normal person can. I know it’s a long road but if you are considering knee replacements now or in the future, know that they are very capable of giving you pain-free walking legs. I honestly forget I even have knee replacements. My surgeon said they should last a good 20-30 years (as long as I take care of them properly) before I have to replace the plastic in them, and technology will only get better and better.

    • Deborah Rummel

      My grandson is 17 and was born with a heritaty knee problem our knees dislocate . He is a great athlete also . Baseball and football but he had to give that up because of his knees . He had one surgery bot it did not help at all. His one knee is dislocated all the time it is completely not in the socket . He is fortunate because he is in no pain so the doctor does not want to do anything . Maybe the two of you can talk . Please email me back with your outcome .

  22. Wow, this thread alternates between terrifying and encouraging. I just turned 34. Had a relatively minor soccer injury 5 years ago. Had chrondroplasty, arthroscopy, arthroscopy, then OATs, and just recently re-injured the knee – my guess is that one of the grafts under the patella tore. I have to go back and see my doctor, and I don’t know if I am going to have any options other than replacement this time. This thread has given me some hope and also frightened me. Will have to wait and see. This has been the most trying experience in my life – I relate to the stories of pain of each and every one of you. My sincerest wishes for the best possible recovery to you all.

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