Let’s talk about knee osteoarthritis and whether you are a candidate for a total knee replacement. Osteoarthritis is one of the most common conditions affecting the knee joint. If you are suffering from this condition, you are most likely to experience severe knee pain, swelling on and off, stiffness if you’ve been inactive for a long time, and a possible reduction in the range of motion you can undertake.
In the early stages, this can be treated by varying degrees of medicines and treatments. Simple painkillers like Tylenol or Celebrex that have anti-inflammatory properties and target the pain can be taken.
You will also be eligible for an injection of hyaluronic acid, cortisone, or platelet-rich plasma, i.e., PRP. Other recommended treatment is physiotherapy. It is always advisable to undergo this as it is seen as the most effective treatment.However, if everything else fails – knee replacement might be your only option. We have tried to present an overall view of a knee replacement surgery – the good, bad, and ugly.
Recommendations before undergoing the surgery
Try to calm the knee pain down. Be it just knee pain or arthritis, it tends to periodically flare up and calm down. During periods of a flare-up, you might think it warrants surgery. But to calm it down, first, try using a walking aid. It is about time someone gets over the shame attached to using a walking stick. As elucidated above, try using anti-inflammatory medication recommended by your doctor or pharmacist like ibuprofen.
Another important way to calm the pain is by reducing your load-bearing activities. Avoid kneeling and avoid stairs if you can. Otherwise, take one step at a time. Use your good leg going up and lead with the sore knee. This takes a lot of stress off the knees.
Basically, this should not be your first line of treatment. Look into all the available treatment options. However, if the period of flare-up persists, then it might be time to consider the surgery.
When does one need Knee Replacement?
The overriding indication is pain. It does not matter what the x-ray looks like. Usually, the x-ray invariably shows that the joint is arthritic or worn away. But it is not the severity of the x-ray but the symptoms. So, it is your quality of life with the pain. On one extreme, there are people who in severe distress and wheelchair-bound. Their options are limited, they do need to undergo surgery. On the other end, there are people who can only walk a couple of miles. But this does not warrant a knee replacement. It is not worth the risk or benefits of the surgery.
A knee replacement operation is not minor. Hence, you need to balance out the risks against the benefits. It is a complex surgery that will affect your life long after you’ve been through it. A life-changing decision should be taken with full knowledge of what you’re getting yourself into. So, make sure you do your research thoroughly.
Knee Replacement risks and complications
Before reading this segment, you need to know that despite the numerous risks, they very rarely occur in patients. Lesser than one per cent encounter complications during or after the surgery. The following are the various kinds of risks:
- Blood Clots:
After surgery, there is a chance that your blood might clot. This clot might travel all the way to your lungs causing a blockage in the same. This risk exists in any kind of surgery, but the chances are heightened in this particular one. To overcome the clot, your doctor might prescribe blood thinners or will recommend techniques to improve the circulation of the blood.
This is on the severe end of the spectrum of risks and needs immediate attention. During or after the surgery, any contact with bacteria might cause an infection in that area. You need to ensure you are in a sterile environment along with properly taking care of the wound post-surgery.
- Persistent Pain:
It is common to have pain after the surgery, but it is the intensity and duration that matters. If the pain keeps worsening after the surgery, it is advisable to get it checked.
Another severe risk involved is if your body is allergic to the metal elements of the artificial joint. To avoid this, it is advised to disclose all and any kind of allergies that you may have. Take an allergen test if that is what it takes.
On extremely rare occasions, one might even have neurological injuries, vascular injuries, a heart attack, or a stroke leading to death. The probability of these occurring, however, is exceptionally low.
Considerations to take into account
Once you have concluded that a knee replacement is definitely going to be beneficial to you, then consider undergoing it without further delay. You also need a good support system if you decide to do so. You will need to spend at least a day or two in the hospital post-surgery. But after that, will there be someone to tend to your needs?
How will you provide meals for yourself? Do you need someone around to make sure you are fine? If you’re employed, how many days do you need to get back to work? Where do you want to get the surgery itself? If it is not in your home state, how will you get to your monthly check-ups?
Another important consideration is the cost of the surgery. Knee replacement costs a fortune. It costs a minimum of 2 lakhs, on average. If you want one from high-end surgeons, it will definitely cost more. So, is it feasible for you to undertake such an expense? If so, where will you get the funding from?
As illustrated above, there are a lot of decisions that are required to be taken when you make a life-altering choice such as this. But on the bright side, it will renew your life. You will feel much better about your health, your pain will subside and will give you a longer lease for your life with your new knee.