You’re walking well NOW with your knee replacement(s), but have you wondered how well you’ll be walking with this hardware in 20 years?

This question pertains strictly to the functionality of the knee replacement device, leaving out unrelated variables that can affect walking in old age, such as a back problem, injury from a slip-and-fall, etc.

Over 90 percent of people who have a total knee replacement enjoy a remarkable improvement in walking and performing common activities, as well as marked reduction in their pain.

Most patients, at the time of knee replacement surgery, are 60 to 80. A new study about how well patients are walking 20 years after knee replacement surgery has some very favorable conclusions.

Patients often wonder if, years down the road, they will need some kind of revision of their knee replacement, says study author John B. Meding, MD, attending orthopaedic surgeon for The Center for Hip and Knee Surgery, IN.

The study revealed that after 20 years, a considerable functional capacity, plus level of activity, were retained in patients who’d had total knee replacement.

The study involved 128 people 20 years after their total knee replacement.

Average follow-up time was 21.1 years out from the surgery, and the average age at time of follow-up was 82.3 years.

And here are the results: Forty-eight percent of the patients in this study reported unlimited walking, and 95 percent could do walking for at least five blocks.

Of the 128 participants, 126 could go up and down stairs without using rails.

Just three of the subjects were housebound. None of the patients experienced any failures with their knee replacement implants.

“These findings definitely add to the conversation with patients considering surgery. If a patient actually lives that long, a well-functioning TKR may help allow them to maintain a remarkable functional capacity and activity level not just for five or 10 years but for 20 years and beyond,” says Dr. Meding in the study paper.

He adds, “Elderly people are using their surgically replaced knees for fairly active lifestyles many years after surgery.”

Knee replacement surgery (partial or total) is needed when the patient’s osteoarthritis becomes too painful to live with.

This condition is when the cartilage that cushions the joint becomes worn down over time, sometimes disappearing altogether. Bone-on-bone contact results, causing the pain. Risk factors for osteoarthritis besides older age include obesity or overweight, lack of structured exercise, traumatic injury, and repetitive stress injury that may occur on the job.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.