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BACKGROUND: Little is known about ability to work after unicompartmental knee replacement (UKR) and total knee replacement (TKR), especially in physically-demanding occupations. This study described rates of return-to-work (RTW) and ability to sustain work by job after arthroplasty. METHOD: Participants from The Clinical Outcomes in Arthroplasty Study (COASt) aged 18-65 were eligible if they underwent UKR or TKR and had at least 5 years' follow-up post-operation. We posted a survey asking about pre-operative occupation, post-operative occupations and associated physical demands, and whether they had quit a job post-surgery due to difficulties with the operated knee (knee-related job loss (KRJL)). We fitted Cox Proportional Hazard Models to investigate the role of demanding physical activities on KRJL. RESULTS: 251 people (143 UKR, 108 TKR) returned a questionnaire, of whom 101 UKR and 57 TKR worked post-operatively. Rates of RTW were highest amongst those in managerial and professional or technical roles, whichever operation they received. RTW was poorest amongst those in elementary occupations. In associate professional/technical occupations, RTW rates were better amongst UKR recipients. Amongst participants who returned to work, 17 reported KRJL (8.5% UKR and 16.7% TKR). Respondents were more likely to have KRJL if their job involved carrying/lifting ≥10 kg (HR:4.81, 95%CI 1.55-14.93) or climbing >30 flights of stairs (HR:4.03, 95%CI 1.36-11.98). CONCLUSIONS: Knee arthroplasty recipients working pre-operatively mostly RTW. RTW may be more difficult after TKR than UKR. Jobs which involve lifting and climbing stairs may be particularly challenging. Surgeons offering knee arthroplasty should counsel patients about workability as well as risk of revision.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





245 - 255


Employment, Return to work, Total knee replacement, Unicompartmental knee replacement, Work ability