Why Knee Replacement Surgery Is So Important

by Bethany
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The human body is an amazing machine. It serves as the Vehicle of Life. As with all vehicles, it requires care and maintenance to achieve health and longevity. Often, the most used/ abused parts of the vehicle are the shock absorbers, or, in the case of the human vehicle: the knees.

Your knee is basically a fulcrum between two levers, your femur and your tibia. It is the largest single joint in your body, operated by a system of ligaments and tendons, powered by strong thigh muscles, to keep you mobile and stable in your upright position. Your knees bear your entire body’s weight, which is compounded mathematically as you walk and run.

Why a Knee Replacement Surgery Is So Important

As you age, the amazing machine wears out. The knee is particularly susceptible to repetitive injury that can cause cumulative damage over time. Many seniors suffer from osteo or rheumatoid arthritis. If you have an active life, knee pain or weakness can really put a cramp in it. If you have tried different shoes, exercise, elevation, rest, heat, ice, anti-inflammatories, pain medications, herbs, bee stings, magnets, crystals, wraps, braces, canes, crutches, walkers… it may be time for a knee replacement.

Before you run screaming from the operating theater, new technology has developed both procedures and prostheses that take “Frankenstein” out of the picture, and present a much more pleasant screenplay for your arthroscopy. Recovery times are minimal and parts last much longer these days.

What Is A Knee Replacement

If only one side of the knee is damaged and the leg is healthy otherwise, a partial knee replacement may be done. In the case of severe damage, complex revision knee replacement may be necessary. A total knee replacement (TKR) involves removal and replacement of the entire joint. Some ligaments, cartilage, and any damaged tissue are removed. The femur and tibia are cut to shape, and a metal prosthetic joint is affixed to the bone with screws or surgical cement. The patella may be replaced, resurfaced, or simply reattached. The ligaments must be balanced to ensure stability, alignment, and range of motion.

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Who Needs a Knee Replacement

A fractured knee joint might make you an immediate candidate for surgery, but short of traumatic injury, there are other times when knee replacement is a serious consideration. Arthritis may cause deterioration or ossification of the bones. Deformities caused by disease or genetics may cause problems. Heavy loads and impactive activities can wear out the knee joint and leave it more likely to sustain damage. If pain, swelling, or weakness do not respond to home remedies, or if standing, walking, or using stairs becomes difficult, your doctor may try hyaluronic acid injections to lubricate the joint. These often bring immediate relief, but may not be a long-term alternative. Knee replacements should always be the last alternative, but should definitely be considered.

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Walk Freely Again

If a bad knee has kept you from getting around, it probably affects more than your mobility. It affects your physical and mental health, as well. Not being able to do the things you want and are used to doing because pain, weakness, and instability get in the way, means the loss of your lifestyle. You need your life back. A knee replacement will get you back on your feet again in just a couple of months. Imagine being able to sit, stand, and walk without pain. Simple shopping trips would no longer be death marches through the store. You might even think about running, hiking, dancing, or getting down on the floor with the kids.

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Average Cost Of A Knee Replacement

In spite of being the most common surgical procedure performed in the United States, knee replacement is not cheap. Pricing varies from state to state and depending on the complexity of the surgery, but on the average, it costs between $30,000 and $35,000 to have a total knee replacement. Because knee replacement is typically not the first option for treatment, most patients receiving this operation are acting on their doctor’s referral and have health insurance that will cover most, if not all of the expense. Some teaching hospitals offer programs for uninsured patients. The out-of-pocket expense for these facilities may be as low as $4,000 to $7,000.

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Finding a Knee Replacement Surgeon

Finding the right surgeon may be as easy as asking your primary care physician for a referral. Most likely, you will want to shop around. Word of mouth is the best advertising. If you know someone who has had knee replacement, don’t hesitate to ask about their experience. Sometimes the best surgeons don’t have the best bedside manner, so try not to be put off if yours seems cold or distant. It may well mean you are in the best hands. Professional organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery can provide reviews and recommendations, as well as local medical referral websites.

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When To Get A Knee Replacement

Knee pain and weakness make you more susceptible to falls, which are a leading cause of debilitating bone fractures among seniors. A broken hip or back may mean the end of your mobility, and possibly your independence. If knee pain makes you limp or hobble, you are not well balanced on your feet. This puts you at risk of falling.

Damage to ligaments or bones may not heal without medical attention. Avascular necrosis, loss of blood flow to the bones, may result in micro-fracturing and death of the bone. If home remedies do not relieve your pain or if your weakness persists, you should seek a consultation with your doctor.

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Recovery After Knee Surgery

Your surgery should take a couple of hours. You may be asked to sit in a chair the same day. Physical therapy consisting of simple leg lifts or ankle rotations begins within 24 hours. Your physical therapist will help you recover mobility and strength and have you walking in a day or so. Your occupational therapist will assure that you can perform daily tasks, such as washing and dressing, before you are released. You may need help around the house until you are fully restored. With proper healing and physical therapy, you will be walking with a cane or walker for a few weeks, and can expect a full recovery in four to six weeks.