Why Have a Double Knee Replacement?

If the pain and stiffness of arthritis is affecting both your knees—to the point you’ll need surgery soon—you may want to consider a double knee replacement, also known as a bilateral knee replacement.

See Double Knee Replacements

knee replacement x-rays There are several advantages to having a double knee replacement, such as less time in the hospital and quicker return to mobility. See The Pros and Cons of Double Knee Replacement

During a double knee replacement, both knee joints are replaced during one surgery. Just as with single knee replacements, double knee replacements have a good success rate. They result in a reduction in knee pain and improvement in function for almost all patients.

Article continues below
Advertisement

The advantages of double knee replacement

If both knees need to be replaced, it’s pretty apparent that there are some clear advantages to doing it simultaneously:

  • Less time in the hospital. Although you’ll need to stay at least half a day longer than if you had a single knee replacement, you’ll only have to stay once.

    See What to Expect After Knee Replacement

  • Less time off work. The recommended time off work is the same for both a single and double knee replacement: 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Cheaper. Experts estimate that the savings is about 20% for a double knee replacement compared with two single knee replacements, but costs vary depending on provider and insurance.
  • Less physical therapy. When you can rehabilitate both knees at once, it takes less time than doing it individually.

    See Knee Replacement Surgery Rehabilitation Exercises

  • Quicker return to mobility and physical activity. It can be frustrating to recover from a single knee replacement only to be hampered by continuing pain in the other knee.
  • See “When Can I…?” Answers for Knee Replacement Patients

The drawbacks and risk factors

However, it’s not all “pros.” There are some disadvantages and potential risks in having a double knee replacement:

  • Limited eligibility. Patients need to have moderate to severe knee osteoarthritis in both knees to qualify. They also should be in good physical condition and may need to be younger than a certain age, depending on the surgeon.
  • See Knee Osteoarthritis Symptoms

  • The risk for complications like infections or revision surgery are slightly higher for a double knee replacement than a single one.

    See Total Knee Replacement Risks and Complications

  • More blood loss. About 40% of people who receive a double knee replacement need a blood transfusion, compared with 12% of single knee replacement patients.
  • More time under anesthesia because of the longer procedure. Anesthesia risks increase with the length of time it needs to be administered.
  • More challenging recovery process. When both knees recovering from surgery, you’re a lot less able to get around and will need a lot more help. In fact, many double knee replacement patients need to spend time in a rehabilitation center after they leave the hospital, rather than going straight home.

Some surgeons also offer a staggered or staged schedule for double knee replacement, meaning that the two surgeries may be scheduled a few months or weeks apart.

Despite a few drawbacks, double knee replacement is a nice option for those with bilateral knee arthritis to have less pain and more mobility in a quicker amount of time.

If you have disabling arthritis in both knees, ask your doctor if you may be a good candidate for a double knee replacement.

See Knee Osteoarthritis Diagnosis

Learn more:

Choosing a Surgeon for Total Knee Replacement

How to Prepare for Total Knee Replacement

Post written by Carrie DeVries