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Total Knee Replacement Surgery and Recovery

July 2011 Source: Natural Standard

A new study published in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research suggests that women may recover faster earlier after total knee replacement surgery than men.

Joint replacement surgery may be necessary for some individuals who suffer from permanent joint damage. During the procedure, a damaged joint is surgically removed and replaced with a plastic or metal device called a prosthesis. Joint replacement surgeries are generally more successful for large joints, such as the hip and knee. Researchers estimate that hip and knee replacements last at least 20 years in 80 percent of patients. After successful surgery and several months of rehabilitation, individuals are able to use their new joints without pain.

The study evaluated 141 men and 353 women from three randomized, controlled trials assessing rehabilitation after standard knee replacement surgery. The participants reported their level of physical function, pain and stiffness at follow-up visits three months, six months, one year, and two years after surgery.

On average before surgery, women reported lower physical function, higher pain, and more stiffness than men. At follow-up visits, both genders reported similar scores.

However, comparing pre-surgery and follow-up scores, women had greater improvement after three months and six months in both function and pain compared to men. Differences in improvement between genders were lacking after one and two years.

While the results from this study suggest that women may recover faster earlier after surgery than men, long-term clinical significance may be lacking. As there is conflicting data in the literature about gender-specific outcomes after total knee replacement surgery, further research may be necessary.

Physical therapy has been used to help with recovery and treat complications after total knee replacement therapy. Examples of treatments used include knee braces, shoe lifts, custom-fitted shoe inserts, electrical stimulation, nerve releases and Botox® injections. In an evidence-based systematic review, Natural Standard found that physical therapy has unclear or conflicting scientific evidence as an effective therapy following knee replacement surgery.

For more information about joint replacement therapy, please visit Natural Standard’s Health & Wellness database.


  1. Liebs TR, Herzberg W, Roth-Kroeger AM, et al. Women Recover Faster Than Men after Standard Knee Arthroplasty. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2011. Jun 23. View Abstract
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. www.naturalstandard.com