Knee Replacement Surgery Should be Postponed as Long as Possible: Is This True?
Knee arthritis is a chronic condition that can, at some point, place significant limitations on a person’s activities. The pain and stiffness caused by an arthritic knee joint can interfere with daily living, but it doesn’t have to be this way. There are several ways in which a medical professional can address knee arthritis. Some solutions are temporary and some are more permanent. Currently, knee replacement surgery is observed as the most permanent solution to painful knee problems.
To replace the entire knee joint is a major process. Understandably, patients may have concerns related to surgical risks, a prolonged rehabilitation period, and anesthesia. These concerns often feed into the myth that knee replacement should be put off as long as possible. When other methods of pain control are available, postponing surgery can seem like quite a good idea. We want to address this myth here.
How Far Will It Go?
Once a joint has begun to degrade, it does not self-correct. Knee arthritis may initially cause a slight amount of stiffness in the mornings or pain after long walks or certain activities. Over time, as cartilage and synovial fluid decline, structures within the joint move closer together. Friction may occur between bones in the joint. This can cause “locking,” where the joint is unable to move. Stiffness may extend far beyond the morning hours and become restrictive. Because the symptoms related to joint degeneration occur over time, many people fail to see the severity of their physical limitations; or they are aware of their limitations but still believe pain is a better option than surgery.
Delaying knee surgery can have significant consequences. For example, the mobility and function of the knee joint prior to surgery are primary factors that predict how well the joint will function after knee replacement. This means that the more stiffness and the less mobile the joint is before surgery, the less likely it is that the joint will be fully flexible and mobile after surgery.
Another consequence of delaying knee surgery is poor prognosis related to weight. Often, the symptoms of knee arthritis lead a person into a sedentary lifestyle. The lack of physical activity allows structures around the knee to atrophy. Inadequate exercise leads to weight gain, poor tolerance for exercise (which is necessary after knee surgery), and, sometimes, to coexisting health conditions that can affect surgical outcomes.
Knee replacement surgery can achieve excellent results when conducted in the right timing. Learn more about your knee pain and how it may be resolved. Schedule a consultation in our Paramus, NJ office at 201.291.4040.
Category: Knee Injury and Treatment