1. Am I a suitable candidate for surgery?
Dealing with chronic knee pain for years can motivate many people to consider surgery. However, the procedure is not for every individual. The best candidates are those with severe joint degeneration confirmed via imaging. Patients should have tried non-surgical means without success. Knee replacement is an invasive procedure, so the ideal candidate should be in relatively good health, at a healthy weight, and a non-smoker. Additionally, the pain should not be related to certain diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or lupus. The medical team will perform a complete medical review to confirm whether surgery is the right course of action.
2. Which procedure is best?
If surgery is an option, there are different types and techniques based on the extent of damage and procedure available. Some patients can benefit from a partial knee replacement, where some of the natural knee is kept intact, but a part is removed and replaced with a prosthetic. A complete replacement removes the entire knee joint and cartilage. Today’s knee replacements typically use minimally invasive surgery, where small incisions and a special scope are used to access and repair the knee. Minimally invasive surgery leads to more minor scars and faster recovery. Robotic arm-assisted surgery is another option that significantly enhances the success and speed of surgery.
3. Are there any risks?
With any surgical procedure, there is the possibility of risks and complications. Some of these risks can stem from a reaction to the anesthesia used during surgery. Other complications can arise from the incisions made, such as infections or bleeding. Some patients may experience issues with the joint, nerve damage, or reduced mobility. These risks and complications, while possible, are rare. Statistics show that knee replacement surgery has high success and satisfaction rates.
4. What can I expect during recovery?
Most patients have minimally invasive surgery at a surgical center and can leave the facility on the same day. Recovery starts immediately, combining pain management with gentle movement using a walker or other assisted device. After 2-3 weeks, the patient will begin extensive physical therapy (PT) to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee. Physical therapy can be several days per week, increasing in intensity over time. The doctor will also meet periodically with the patient to ensure the joint is healing and functioning effectively. The extent of recovery ranges from 3-6 months for most patients.
Make the right choice
Chronic knee pain can significantly limit movement and cause severe distress. Over time, even pain medication and other conservative management means will fail. At this stage, a knee replacement is an effective option to provide long-term relief and restore the function of the knee. Don’t hesitate to ask the orthopedic surgeon any questions. As knee replacements have a high success rate, the right candidate should expect a fantastic result and enjoy a pain-free knee for years.