How Do I Know I Need a Knee or Hip Replacement?

Is it time for a knee or hip replacement?

Dr. Berger’s New Patient Liaison gets around 100 calls per day. These potential patients, calling with complaints of horrific knee or hip pain, range vastly in age and personal history. While many patients have been explicitly told by an orthopedic doctor that they need a knee or hip replacement, for others, the path ahead may seem unclear. What exactly qualifies one for a joint replacement? Below, common orthopedic terminology is deciphered and explained:


Mayo Clinic’s website provides this definition of osteoarthritis: “Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in your joints gradually deteriorates. Cartilage is a firm, slippery tissue that permits nearly frictionless joint motion. In osteoarthritis, the slick surface of the cartilage becomes rough. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, you may be left with bone rubbing on bone.” If you have osteoarthritis in your hip or knee joints, you are (or someday will be) in need of a replacement.

“Bone on Bone” 

As the cartilage in the hip or knee joint deteriorates, you are left with bone rubbing on bone, as the Mayo Clinic’s definition states above. The cartilage between the bones in your hip or knee protects the ends of the bones. When that has worn down you are left with “bone on bone,” formally known as osteoarthritis. Maybe you have not been specifically told you need a joint replacement, but you have had X-Rays taken and were told you are “bone on bone.” This is indeed osteoarthritis and will require a joint replacement.

Arthritis vs. Osteoarthritis

Maybe your older sister was told she had osteoarthritis in her knees, but an orthopedic surgeon looked at your knee X-Rays and stated you have arthritis in your knee. Do you have the same medical problem? Most likely, yes. There are two kinds of arthritis: osteoarthritis, which is mentioned above, and rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that results in inflammation. Mayo Clinic further differentiates rheumatoid arthritis: “Unlike the wear-and-tear damage of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity.” All of Dr. Berger’s patients suffer from osteoarthritis, which merits the need for a knee or hip replacement. Only a handful of our patients also have rheumatoid arthritis, in addition to osteoarthritis. Often “osteoarthritis” is shortened to “arthritis,” as osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis.

Regardless of the phrasing, when the cartilage in the knee or hip joint wears away it can be extremely painful. Daily activities, even simply standing, can become excruciating. Irreversible degeneration of the joint has begun, and the only remedy at this point is joint replacement. When you decide to undergo joint replacement and take your life back, is up to you.

If you have been told you are “bone on bone,” or you have arthritis or osteoarthritis in your hips or knees, and you would like to learn more about Dr. Berger’s outpatient joint replacement procedure, call our office at 312-432-2557.