Between 4% and 6% of knee replacement surgeries are double knee replacements,1 during which both of the patient’s knees are replaced. This procedure is sometimes called bilateral knee replacement.
People considering double knee replacement have moderate to severe knee arthritis in both of their knees. They may find it painful to walk for extended lengths or do other everyday activities.
Pros and Cons
Many people consider double knee replacements more efficient and convenient. For example, patients spend less time in the hospital, less time off work, and less time in physical therapy. It also tends to cost less than having two separate surgeries.
However, there are disadvantages, including an increased risk of blood loss and increased risk of complications. (Though it is worth noting that people who elect to have double knee replacement are exposed to these risks just one time.)
Because of the increased risks during and immediately following bilateral knee replacement surgery, most doctors recommend that patients be in good physical condition (with the exception of their arthritic knees).
There are no set age requirements for double knee replacements. Some surgeons use a cut-off age—for example, they might only perform double knee replacements on patients aged 60 and younger. Other surgeons evaluate each patient on a case-by-case basis.
One analysis suggests that people over age 80 can be considered for double knee replacements as long as they meet other surgical criteria.4
An Alternative: Staged Knee Replacements
Some people may decide against double knee replacement but decide to have two single knee replacements scheduled close together.
Many surgeons recommend scheduling the two knee replacement surgeries approximately three months apart. A small number of surgeons may consider scheduling surgeries as close as one week apart.5
When scheduling staged knee replacements, the patient and doctor must consider the patient’s overall health and ability to heal and recover between surgeries. If the patient is not adequately recovered from the first knee replacement surgery, he or she may be more prone to infection after the second surgery.6