Knee replacement surgery

Learn about the surgical procedure, costs and recovery for knee replacement.

What is knee replacement?1

Knee replacement is a type of surgery in which a damaged knee joint is replaced with an artificial one. The surgery is generally considered to be safe and effective. For most patients it results in less pain and more ability to be active.

The most common reason for a knee replacement is to treat osteoarthritis of the knee. Most people who have a knee replacement are over 60 years of age, and knee replacement is usually recommended to treat severe pain or disability.

The medical term for knee replacement is knee arthroplasty

Someone with knee pain who needs a knee replacement

Signs you might need knee replacement2

Knee replacements are usually only considered if lifestyle changes, medicines and other treatments like physiotherapy are not helping.

Here are some signs that your knee needs some kind of treatment:

  • Severe knee pain or stiffness that makes it hard to walk, climb stairs or get in and out of chairs
  • Moderate or severe knee pain while resting
  • Knee pain that doesn’t improve with rest or medications
  • Knee pain that interferes with sleep or general daily activities

Alternatives to knee replacement1

  • Non-impact exercise
  • Losing weight
  • Physiotherapy
  • Medicines
  • Knee injections
Woman doing yoga as a knee replacement alternative
Woman recovering from knee replacement surgery looking over a bridge

Knee replacement recovery1

Most patients leave hospital one to four days after knee replacement surgery.

  • For a few weeks following surgery, crutches, a cane or a walking frame are usually needed.
  • Typically, joint strength and flexibility gradually recovers over a 12-month period.
  • Seeing a physiotherapist and doing the recommended rehabilitation exercises can help speed up recovery.

Getting a knee replacement at a public vs private hospital

It’s important to understand how getting your procedure in a public or private hospital differs.

Public system (Without health insurance)
Private system (With health insurance)

Will I avoid public hospital waiting lists?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I be able to choose my hospital?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I be able to choose my doctor or surgeon?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I have out-of-pocket costs?

  • No.
  • Yes.

What is the cost of knee replacement surgery?

In a public hospital

In a public hospital, knee replacement surgery is covered by Medicare for eligible residents.

Once you are discharged from hospital, you may still need to pay out-of-pocket for things like medicines and physiotherapy.

In a private hospital, using health insurance

In a private hospital, private health insurance can cover some costs of knee replacement surgery.

You may have an out-of-pocket cost if you use private hospital cover when you get treatment. You can minimise some of these costs by choosing a hospital and specialist that have agreements with your health insurer.

If you have an excess on your cover, you will have to pay for that out of pocket.

What is hospital excess?

What is an out-of-pocket cost?

How to find health cover for knee replacement surgery

Minimise your costs

Ask your GP for an open referral

Your GP is the one who’ll most likely refer you to a specialist – but they may not recommend the specialist you’d want to perform your surgery. Asking for an open referral can let you:

  • Choose your own specialist.
  • Find a specialist with good availability who can perform treatment at the hospital you prefer.
  • Find a specialist that you trust to perform your surgery.
  • Find a specialist with minimum out-of-pocket expenses for you.

Find an orthopaedic surgeon with minimum out-of-pocket costs

To find orthopaedic surgeons who work with HBF, just search for ‘orthopaedic surgeon’ in our find a provider tool.

  • Look for the “Full Cover” tick mark or “Access Gap Cover” tick mark.
  • These specialists will help minimise your out-of-pocket cost.

Find a Provider

If you’ve already started working with a specialist

If you’ve already got a specialist, ask them these questions:

  • Do you have a Full Cover or No Gap agreement with HBF?
    If they don’t, you may need to consider if their fees work with your budget.
  • What hospital(s) do you operate in?
    You can then check if the hospital has a Full Cover or No Gap agreement with HBF.

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