Lots of patients are advised knee replacement! But do you really need it? How to really know if you require a surgery? Knee Replacement is a major surgery which should not be taken lightly. It’s a great success for those who actually need it and can be a disaster for a  patient who doesn’t. The doctor is naturally the best person to make the decision. Sadly many doctors are doing unnecessary surgery for monetary gain.

            The time has come for patients to become smart! It is my wish that patients become aware enough to decide for themselves. Patients should be able to choose a good decision from a bad one. Enlightening patients has always been my sincere endeavour!

            Knee replacement is the final option for a patient with arthritis. It is chosen when all else fails. The patient should have tried all possible treatment methods before considering surgery. Surgery is done for a patient who has constant and severe pain. Pain on getting up from the floor or when going up and down stairs, is common and doesn’t usually warrant a knee replacement.

            However, pain during walking is far more serious. Patients who need surgery can barely walk a few hundred feet. Every step is painful. They limp and walk very slowly. Many need a walking stick for support.  Activities of daily living are affected. Such patients tend to remain at home. They will avoid social commitments that require them to leave the house. Getting up at night and going to the bathroom is a huge and painful effort.

            Painkiller medications are required to get through the day. If you are so disabled and have tried many types of treatments without much benefit, get a knee replacement done. It is a beautifully successful surgery after which you will become normal again. But if you are not so bad, then think again! Knee replacement may not be the best option for you. It may be wiser to wait a while and consider other options.

            What has been the experience of patients who have undergone this surgery? Is it really successful? Does it give long term relief? Is the surgery painful? Before surgery, the patients are screened for infection and assessed for fitness. This involves investigations like blood tests, chest X-ray, etc. A physician checks the patient and certifies him or her fit for surgery. The patient is admitted one day prior to surgery. The surgery is done most often under spinal anesthesia. A small injection is given with a thin needle in the lower back of the patient which makes the legs numb. The actual surgery lasts for 60 to 90 minutes. When the anesthesia wares off, the patient experiences post operative pain. The pain is severe for the first 2 to 4 days. Doctors usually have pain management protocols in place to manage the pain like epidural injections, blocks etc. After that the patient gets pain while exercising the knee (lifting the leg, bending the knee) and during walking. 

            As time passes the pain reduces and completely disappears by 8 to 10 weeks. The patient starts walking on the second or third day after surgery.  Post surgery the patient’s leg becomes weak (due to cutting of muscle during surgery). Initially the patient needs a walker to walk. As time passes the leg becomes stronger and the patient can walk independently. Surgery also leads to swelling of the leg and the knee. This is a normal reaction to surgical trauma. The swelling automatically subsides in 12 to 16 weeks. After this period of recovery is complete, the patient truly experiences the benefits of surgery. The Person stops being a patient and becomes normal. He/she has complete relief from pain. He/she can walk normally (and fast) without a limp or stick. He/she does not need pain killers.

            Even though knee replacement is a major surgery and has a long recovery time, it is a truly gratifying surgery which gives a person spectacular and lasting results.

by Dr. QaedjoharDhariwal (Pune)

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