Knee pain is one of the most common complaints for people of all ages. Pain can result for many reasons, including ruptured ligaments and torn cartilage, but the leading causes of knee pain are related to aging or repetitive stress on the joint. Pain can be debilitating, leading 600,000 Americans every year to undergo total knee replacement surgery. If you are experiencing knee pain and considering knee replacement surgery, there are some things you should know.
1. Before considering knee replacement surgery, explore nonsurgical treatments with your orthopedic surgeon. If you begin to experience knee pain, it’s a good idea to establish yourself with an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in nonsurgical and surgical treatments of the knee. The first approach is always to explore conservative treatments, including:
- Over the counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medications.
- Cortisone and gel injections.
- Knee ablation (a treatment that blocks pain by destroying the nerves).
- Physical therapy.
If conservative treatments become ineffective in relieving your pain, then it might be time to talk with your surgeon about whether knee replacement surgery is right for you.
2. Getting Health Conditions Under Control Speeds Up Recovery and Improves Results. If you are considering knee replacement surgery, it is important to get health conditions, such as diabetes and excess weight, under control to help ensure post-surgical recovery goes smoothly. Research shows you don’t even have to lose all your excess weight, but moderate weight loss of 10 to 20 lbs can shorten hospital stays and enable you to be discharged to your home instead of a rehabilitation facility. In addition, many surgeons recommend a physical therapy regimen before surgery to strengthen the muscles around the knee joint. Patients in good physical condition are often candidates for same-day knee replacement—meaning they don’t have to spend the night in the hospital.
3. Waiting too long to have surgery can cause further damage. There is a delicate balance between replacing the knee too soon and waiting too long, which can lead to increased pain, muscle atrophy, deformity and impact the ability to fully straighten the knee after surgery. Prior schools of thought recommended patients be 60 or older in order to avoid future surgeries down the road. However, with improvements in implants and surgical technologies, that thinking is changing. Deciding “the right time” to have knee replacement surgery should be something you decide in partnership with your surgeon based on your individual circumstances and quality of life.
4. There is more than one type of knee replacement surgery. Ask your surgeon which one is recommended for your unique situation.
- A partial knee replacement swaps out either the inside (medial) or outside (lateral) compartments of the knee joint. This surgery is done through small incisions and is performed when only one part of the knee is affected by injury or arthritis.
- A total knee replacement removes the damaged bone, cartilage and connective tissue and replaces them with an artificial joint.
- Robotic total knee replacement, which poses less injury to soft tissues, uses an inter-operative robot to precisely repair and restore alignment of the knee joint.
- Customized knee implants ensure implants are an exact fit for each patient and helps to reduce bone and healthy tissue loss during surgery.
5. Do your research when selecting a provider. One of the best ways to find a qualified surgeon is to ask for referrals from someone who has had a knee replacement. Plan to meet with more than one to see who’s the best fit for you. Some things to look for include:
- A board-certified orthopedic surgeon (preferably someone who specializes in knee replacements and does them on a regular basis).
- A surgeon who utilizes new technologies, like customized implants, navigation, and robotic technologies which are shown to improve long-term results.
- A surgeon who is an approved provider on your insurance plan.
Visit stvincentcharity.com to learn more about knee replacement and meet our team of board-certified orthopedic surgeons who can help you decide the time for knee replacement surgery.