Total knee replacement surgery can feel like a new lease of life for many people. Like any surgery, however, there may be some risks. For some, recovery and rehabilitation can also take time.
Knee replacement surgery is a standard procedure. Surgeons in the United States did over 680,000 total knee replacements (TKRs) in 2014. According to one study, this number could rise to 1.2 million by 2030.
However, deciding whether or not to go ahead and when to do surgery involves both personal and practical considerations.
Many people put off surgery until pain and mobility problems become unbearable. It often takes time to come to terms with the need for a knee replacement.
Surgery is, after all, a big deal. It can be costly and disruptive to your routine. In addition, there is always a risk.
Before considering surgery, most doctors advise people to look at less invasive treatment options first.
In some cases, these will improve pain and comfort levels without the need for surgery.
Non-surgical options include:
- lifestyle changes
- strengthening exercises
- alternative therapies such as acupuncture
It’s worth noting that, while guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology and Arthritis Foundation conditionally recommend acupunture for knee pain, there is not yet enough evidence to confirm that it works.
There is also less invasive surgery that can help relieve pain by removing particles from inside of the knee. However,
However, if all these other options don’t help, your doctor may recommend a TKR.
Before recommending surgery, an orthopedic surgeon will conduct a thorough examination of your knee using X-rays and possibly an MRI to see inside of it.
They will also go over your recent medical history before deciding whether or not surgery is necessary.
The questions in this article may help you decide if a surgery is the right choice for you.
If a doctor or surgeon recommends surgery, they will discuss the pros and cons with you while helping you make the decision.
Not having surgery can lead, for example, to:
- Other problems beyond the knee joint. Knee pain can cause you to walk awkwardly, for example, and this can affect your hips.
- Weakening and loss of function in muscles and ligaments.
- Increased difficulty engaging in normal daily activities due to pain and a loss of functionality. It may become harder to walk, drive, and do household chores.
- Decline in overall health, due to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle.
- Sadness and depression due to reduced mobility.
- Complications that may need surgery in the future.
All of these issues can reduce a person’s quality of life and have a negative impact on their emotional and physical well-being.
Continued use of your damaged joint will likely lead to further deterioration and damage.
Surgeries performed earlier tend to have higher success rates. The people who have early surgery may have a better chance of functioning more effectively in the months and years ahead.
Younger people who have knee surgery are more likely to need a revision, as they put more wear and tear on their knee joint.
Will you be caring for someone who is considering knee surgery? Get some tips here on what this might involve.
If you have heard that you might benefit from surgery, it is worth considering doing it sooner rather than later.
However, it may not be possible to have surgery at once. Consider the following factors when deciding on a date:
- Will there be someone to take you to and from the hospital?
- Will someone be able to help you with meals and other daily activities during recovery?
- Can you get the date of your choice locally, or will you need to go further afield? If so, will you be able to return easily to the hospital for follow-up appointments?
- Is your accommodation set up for moving around easily, or would you be better off staying with a family member for a few days?
- Can you find someone to help with children, pets, and other dependents for the first few days?
- How much will it cost, and how soon can you get the funding?
- Can you get time off work for the dates you need?
- Will the date fit in with your caregiver’s schedule?
- Will the surgeon or doctor be around for follow up, or will they be going on vacation soon after?
- Is it best to choose the summer, when you can wear lighter clothes for comfort during recovery?
- Depending on where you live, there may also be a risk of ice and snow in winter. This can make it hard to get out for exercise.
You may need to spend 1–3 days in the hospital after surgery, and it can take 6 weeks to get back to normal activities. Most people can drive again after 3–6 weeks.
It is worth considering these points when deciding on the best time to go ahead.
There’s no exact way to determine the best time to have a TKR.
Some people may not be able to have one at all, depending on their age, weight, medical conditions, and other factors.
If you are unsure, consult with a surgeon and get a second opinion. Your future health and lifestyle may be riding on it.
Here are some questions people often ask when considering knee replacement surgery.