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Wondering about the pros and cons of total knee replacement? If you’re like me, you may be considering getting a knee replacement.
It’s a big decision and the main reason I decided to create this website. This article, and more generally, this website is a way for me to write my thoughts about TKR and share them with others in a similar situation.
In this article I’ll go over my pros and cons list for why I’m choosing to get a total knee replacement. I hope this helps your search for information as you consider your options
My Path To Total Knee Replacement
A broken leg leads to life long knee problems. At the age of 20, I suffered a severely broken right leg while playing baseball.
I tried to steal third base and my cleats got. I ended up with a spiral fracture of the tibia.
Two screws were inserted in my right leg, one below the knee and the other through the ankle. I was placed in a cast that went from my thigh to my toes. For the next 8 months I was on crutches.
The first six weeks were critical. If the tibia did not begin to show signs of mending the doctor planned to do a bone graft from my hip.
Thankfully the little cloudy, cotton image began to appear on the XRAY and the healing process began. Needless to say, it was a trying experience with a lot of emotional ups and downs.
I broke my leg in early August while I was home from college for the summer. I had played 3 years of college baseball and I was pretty sure my college playing days were over.
I notified my college coach and he wished me luck. The doctor was not sure if it was a good idea to go back to college 300 miles away. He took a wait and see approach.
After 8 weeks I was getting along pretty good and he gave me the okay to return to college and give it a try. I lived in a small trailer/mobile home by myself. It was small quarters, especially the small shower but I made it work.
Thankfully my teammates and girlfriend went out of their way to help me out. For the entire semester, I carried around a car jack stand with my crutches so that I could sit in a desk (it is almost impossible to sit in a school desk with a full cast without some support).
I continued to drive 300 miles back home to see my doctor once a month. In December the top screw came out and the cast was cut down below my knee.
I was not able to walk with the cast so I was still on crutches. In February the other screw was removed and the entire cast was removed.
What a shock to look at my right leg. The atrophy that took place was unbelievable.
My leg looked like a straight stick. The knee and ankle were very stiff and it was evident that it would be necessary to begin a long road of physical therapy and exercise.
Unfortunately, this didn’t go well. My doctor back home expected me to get therapy from the baseball program at the college. I was no longer part of the baseball team and as a senior my baseball career was over.
The coach was in the middle of a baseball season. He wished me well but made it clear that I was on my own for therapy.
I was so excited to have the cast off that I did not pursue therapy. Instead I began working out in as friend’s garage using his leg machine. Without any professional help I was heading for disaster.
After a few months I was itching for athletic competition. I began by hobbling up and down the basketball court with friends. As time went on the leg got stronger and some of the muscle definition returned.
That fall I thought I was ready for city league basketball. Big mistake! In the first game I stole a ball and went to make a routine layup.
I left the ground on my left leg and landed, as I should have on my right leg (my bad leg). Snap, crackle pop. Something in my knee gave way. I limped straight out of the gym to my car.
The next day I visited my GP who drained fluid from the knee and told me I might have torn the meniscus but to give it some time and see.
About a month later I tried to play in another city league game and the knee twisted and swelled up again. I went to see an orthopedic surgeon, had dye injected in my knee and found out I had indeed torn the medial meniscus.
This was the old-fashioned knee surgery, a few years before arthroscopic techniques were developed. I had a spinal anesthesia and was able to watch the surgery.
The doctor took out torn pieces and tried to leave as much of the cartilage that seemed to be intact alone. I did go through a good physical therapy program this time and built up the support around my knee.
During the next two years I continued to experience swelling and pain in my right knee. Often times while playing basketball it would pop out of alignment and I would take both hands and pop it back and resume playing.
Finally the knee became stuck in a straight position. I went back to the surgeon and he said there was a piece of cartilage stuck between the bones and that I needed another surgery.
The second surgery cleaned out all the floating cartilage. After another round of therapy I resumed my normal activities that included competitive softball, basketball and jogging a mile 3 times a week.
I was able to do all the activities with some degree of pain. During this time I saw an orthopedic surgeon. He ordered an MRI and then he administered a series of hyaluronic acid shots that didn’t help.
He advised me that everyone has a different pain threshold and that when the pain became too much for me that I should return and consider a knee replacement.
I decided to live with the pain for the next 15 years. As time went on the pain increased and the knee function slowly deteriorated to the point that I could no longer perform at a competitive level once I reached my 50’s.
At this point I began to swim, bike and hike. I did all three with some degree of pain. When I reached 65 the pain and the fact that my right knee just didn’t “work” led me to make the decision to have my knee replaced.
First Let’s Start with the Pros for Knee Replacement Surgery
Reduction In Pain
The most obvious pro for me was the possible reduction or elimination of pain.
I was experiencing pain while participating in my favorite outdoor activities. Even simple things like standing in line or just standing for long periods caused me pain.
Walking on concrete or uneven surfaces at the beach became painful. Getting up and down became increasingly difficult as well as getting in and out of cars.
We had a Camaro that was low to the ground that I finally sold because it was a chore to get in and out of the seat. When riding with friends getting into the back seat of their car was difficult.
The majority of my friends who had knee replacement and the testimonials that I read online agreed that their pain was significantly reduced and sometimes completely eliminated.
TKR Will Allow More Activity
I like to be outdoors gardening, walking, hiking and biking. I also enjoy competitive sports like pickleball and tennis.
TKR offers the chance that these activities might be much less painful and make the activities I participate in more enjoyable.
Reduce Pressure On The Good Leg
As I have begun to favor my right knee more and more I have begun to notice that putting the majority of weight on my left leg has caused fatigue and occasional hip pain.
My limp has become more pronounced and when favoring the right knee the left leg takes on the burden of more work.
Better Quality of Life
The most important reason for me to consider TKR is the hope for a better all-around quality of life. Friends tell me they have enjoyed the absence of pain and their general mood and outlook on life has improved as well.
You can’t buy happiness. I am sure that family and friends will appreciate a positive change in my overall attitude.
TKR Is Better At 60 Than 80
I am in my mid-sixties now and I know I am in good health and in good shape. Friends, doctors, and literature all have remarked that you will heal faster and have a better recovery if you are fit, not overweight and don’t wait til you get too old.
When weighing those factors ,the time seems right for me to have TKR.
The thought of a quicker recovery and more years of benefit made it easy to make the decision to quit putting off the surgery.
God willing, I can look forward to many years in the future of an improved quality of life.
Knee Replacement Medical Advances
I first considered TKR fifteen years ago. There have been significant advances in TKR over the last several years. According to my GP and Orthopedic Surgeon the artificial knees are made better, function better and last longer than the earlier products. Surgical techniques are better and the long-term results have improved.
I can’t discount the testimonials of my friends who have told me that TKR was one of the best decisions they made.
Cons of Total Knee Replacement Surgery
Nothing Is Perfect
Knee replacement surgery can reduce pain, improve movement and improve the quality of life. But, like any surgical procedure, it carries risks.
Risks include but are not limited to;
- anesthesia side effects
- blood clots
Joints Can Wear Out Over Time
Joint replacement technology has improved over the years, but it is not perfect. A new joint can loosen, wear out or lose stability. Another procedure may be necessary.
Preparation and Recovery Takes Time
The entire TKR process takes time. You may have to give up work and other activities if you are committed and want to devote maximum time to preparation and recovery.
Some Ways To Avoid the Risks After Surgery
- Exercise is important. Get out of bed and move around. Follow the directions of your doctor’s and physical therapists.
- Use ice and elevate your knee. You can reduce pain and swelling the first few days after surgery if you follow a strict regimen.
- Use compression devices that can prevent blood pooling in the leg and forming clots.
- Clean the wound per your doctor’s instructions and do your part to ward off infection.
Additional Considerations For TKR
- Do my spouse and children agree that TKR is the best option for me? Support is critical and having everyone on the same page can help ensure your success.
- Long-term considerations are a must. How long do I expect to live? Will the knee replacement product outlive me? Am I healthy and fit and can I expect to bounce back after surgery in the prescribed time frame?
- What do my acquaintances and friends say about their personal experience with TKR. Weigh their opinions with your doctor ‘s opinion and with the literature you read in order to make a wise decision.
- Take your time and find the best surgeon for you. The knee replacement products are important but the doctor doing the surgery is of paramount importance. Do your research. Again, I asked friends who have experienced TKR. I read. Read, read and read some more. I spent a good deal of time searching the Internet to learn about doctors in my area and I looked at as many reviews of the doctors that I could find. When you choose a doctor and meet face to face, ask questions and make sure he or she is the right doctor for you. I asked my GP, Cardiologist and a friend who is a doctor to recommend 3 doctors in our area that each would consider if they were having a knee replacement. Two doctors were on all of their lists.
- I visited a Sports Medicine Clinic to find out some alternatives to TKR. At the Clinic I received a wealth of information that convinced me that in my case my knee would not improve with alternative treatment and that it was time to have TKR.
Weighing the pros and cons of TKR surgery is a major decision that should be thought out well in advance. Obviously, you should think about the amount of pain you are in and the ways that you can reduce pain in your knee naturally (losing weight etc.).
You’ll also want to talk to other people who have been through the surgery and hear from doctors after they evaluate you.
I’ve found the process of making this list to be helpful and if you’re considering a total knee replacement I recommend you do the same. Thanks for visiting and be sure to read my other articles, recommendations, and experience with total knee replacement.