Your knee pain or knee instability has finally gotten to the point where you made an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon and they have confirmed that you are indeed a candidate for a total knee replacement. The key word in the last sentence is CANDIDATE! Taking an active role when talking with your surgeon and asking questions is one of the best ways to ensure you and your doctor are on the same page. It is highly important that your clinical reality and your treatment options correlate. Here are (5) questions that can help you choose the best course of treatment:
1. “Do we have to do this now, or can we revisit it later?”
You tell me! First and foremost, as an orthopedic surgeon, my job is to evaluate your condition and give you options. If it is determined you are a candidate for a total knee replacement, you are bone on bone, surgery is one option, but you must tell me whether you want to undergo surgery. You may also consider non-surgical options like injections or physical therapy.
2. “Should I get a second opinion?”
My partners and I at Specialists strongly encourage our patients to do their research prior to their total knee replacement. First and foremost, research your surgeon and the hospital where your surgery is being performed. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid are a great and non-biased resource for patients to gather more information about hospitals- particularly, a hospital’s infection rate. Specialists Hospital Shreveport is a physician owned hospital that focuses solely on orthopedic and spine surgeries… you can visit www.medicare.gov or www.myphysicianhospital.org/ to learn more about your surgeon and the hospital where your surgery is being performed.
3. How long will my recovery be after total knee replacement?
This is relative to your current health and activity level. It is important that we discuss your personal expectations and needs with the clinical reality of this surgery. I like for my patients to be up walking and moving about 2 -4 hours after their surgery and work with an inpatient physical therapist twice daily during their hospital stay. Typically, my total knee patients will go home 1-2 days after their surgery and will be up walking on their own with use of a walker. At Specialists, we send our total knee patients home with an exercise guide and instructions to follow daily and strongly encourage patients to get into an outpatient physical therapy program to accelerate their healthy recovery.
4. “Is there anything I can do on my own to improve my outcome both before and after my total knee replacement?”
Definitely… once you are scheduled for surgery, I encourage patients to make some simple changes to their diet and to start doing some designated pre-op knee exercises daily. Activity before your surgery is the first step you can take towards a healthy recovery. One basic change to diet is increasing your water intake by at least 32-64 ounces a day… increasing water intake initiates healthy kidney function which can offset some of the side effects of anesthesia, like nausea and constipation. Following your surgery, it is very important to do your knee exercises every day, devoting at least 20 to 30 minutes one to two times a day and building up to an hour a day, in addition to any outpatient physical therapy you may be following.
5. “What questions haven’t I asked that I should have?”
As an orthopedic surgeon, I can explain in detail the specifics and intricacies of total knee replacement, but it is very important that you ask questions that are specific to you. Choosing to have total knee replacement is going to mean making some lifestyle changes… just because you have a new high functioning joint doesn’t mean your mind is suddenly going to want to increase your activity level and do your exercises. Know your own reality and if you are struggling with how you are going to manage your recovery, let’s work together to devise a plan before surgery.
Val Irion, MD is a fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine- both surgical and nonsurgical approaches. Dr. Irion practices at Orthopedic Specialists of Louisiana located in Shreveport and Bossier City. To schedule an evaluation, please call (866) 759.9679