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Should You Consider Knee Replacement Surgery for OA?

Osteoarthritis (OA) can be an incredibly painful condition– although no one who suffers from it needs to be told that twice!

OA frequently hits your knees the hardest, since they carry the strain of your body weight and daily activities. Consequently, individuals whose OA gets bad enough may need to replace this crucial joint.

Man with OA considering knee replacement surgery

As with any big health decision, knee replacement surgery should be considered carefully, weighing the positives vs. negatives and of course listening to your doctor’s guidance. Here are some things you should bear in mind when making a decision about knee replacement surgery for your OA.

First Questions to Ask

It can be daunting to figure out whether you should consider knee replacement surgery, but the following questions will help get you started:

1) Am I experiencing a marked disruption of everyday activities?

Knee replacement surgery is a significant procedure, so it’s usually only considered if you’re struggling with your daily life despite the use of anti-inflammatory medicines. If your pain disrupts your ability to perform day-to-day tasks or prevents you from sleeping at night, you’re a good candidate for knee replacement surgery.

2) Do I have bone-on-bone arthritis?

X-rays are a big part of of the decision making process when it comes to getting a knee replacement for OA. Except in very rare circumstances, patients who only have thinning of the cartilage should NOT consider surgery. Patients do not have bone-on-bone arthritis but still go through with the surgery are usually far less satisfied with their knee replacement results. If you have thinning cartilage that’s causing you pain, your doctor can help come up with an alternative treatment plan that will best satisfy your needs.

3) Am I experiencing instability in my knee?

One indication that it may be time for surgery is looseness and instability of the knee. This instability can manifest itself in the form of a “giving way” sensation or even cause you to fall down in more severe cases.

If you are experiencing any of the above, it’s a good time to get your doctor’s take on whether knee replacement surgery is the best choice for you.

Selecting a Reputable Surgeon

If you’re going to have a knee replacement done, it goes without saying that you should find an excellent surgeon. But since anyone is going to promote him- or herself as reputable and skilled, it’s a good idea to know exactly what questions to ask.

Here are a few to keep in mind:

  • Ask how many knees your potential surgeon does per year. (It should be a couple hundred!)
  • Ask what the surgeon’s infection rate is. (It should be less than 1%.)
  • Ask about his or her patients’ general outcome rates. (The surgeon should track outcomes such as range of motion and loosening rate. “Our patients do well” is too general to be a satisfactory answer.)

Remember to be confident about gaining the answers to all of your questions. This is an important decision and you have the right take your time and consider all your options.

To get you started, here are the top orthopedic surgeons in Florida.

How Age Affects Your Decision

This one might be unexpected!

With a lot of surgeries and procedures, the rule of thumb is, “The younger and healthier, the better!” Being young and fit can help healing time and lessen overall risk.

However, knee replacement surgery is a little different. The paradox here is that younger, more active people are less likely to be happy with the results of a knee replacement. In general, younger people still want to be active. They are more likely to be disappointed that they should no longer play any sports that require twisting or sudden stops, such as skiing or basketball. In addition to feeling more hindered, the average active forty-year-old also knows that he or she will probably need a second replacement years down the road– which isn’t a cheerful thought for people who have already gone through the surgery once.

Older patients, on the other hand, typically just want pain relief and to be mobile; they care less about basketball or skiing. They usually don’t feel as much pain throughout their recovery process. Not to mention that the individual’s new knee is far more likely to last the rest of his or her life!

Alternatives to Surgery

Last but not least, let’s discuss a few alternatives to surgery– or options to at least try first!

Arthritic Off-Loader Brace

An arthritic off-loader brace and/or a heel wedge can help direct the force on your joint to the less arthritic side.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be a very effective means of treatment. Closed-chain quadriceps strengthening is one of the best exercises for an osteoarthritic knee.

Weight Loss

Did you know that losing one pound of overall body weight actually takes THREE pounds of stress off of your knee? Being overweight or obese can significantly worsen your condition, since it puts unneeded pressure on your joints. If you have a Body Mass Index (BMI) above 30, losing weight in a healthy way is a good idea– both for your joints and overall health.

Anti-Inflammatory Medications

Anti-inflammatory medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) are very effective relievers of osteoarthritis pain. However, if taken in too high of doses, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen can have side effects like:

  • Ulcers
  • Bleeding
  • Kidney damage

Make sure your doctor knows exactly how much you plan to take, and that he or she is regularly screening you for any potential side effects.

Steroid Injections

Steroid injections are one of the most common osteoarthritis treatments. They are known to be very effective at relieving pain and come with an impressively low infection risk. Unlike steroid pills, they also tend to only affect the area in pain. (One exception is that diabetic patients are known to experience a temporary rise in blood sugar.)

Steroid injections can be administered directly into the knee every three months. In some cases, routine steroid injections can delay knee replacement surgery for years.

Conclusion

Knee replacement surgery for your osteoarthritis is a big decision, so we hope this article has provided you with some helpful information! You can learn a lot more from X-rays and talking to your doctor. With the right information, you can make the choice that is best for your body and quality of life.

If you are looking for other alternatives, we’d like you to know that we do conduct osteoarthritis clinical trials in Port Orange.

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