Delaying Your Knee Replacement? 3 Reasons You Should Not Postpone Surgery

You may have been dealing with significant knee pain for several years and your orthopedic surgeon has informed you a knee replacement is the best option. Although you may be concerned about having a major surgery, postponing your knee replacement can exacerbate orthopedic and overall health concerns.

Preventing A Total Knee Replacement

Depending on the extent and location of damage, your surgeon may have suggested a partial knee replacement. Since a partial knee replacement is significantly less complex than a total knee replacement, there are many advantages to having surgery while this is still an option. A partial knee replacement is less invasive, which typically means the surgery takes less time to perform and the recovery is faster. Post-operative pain is generally less with a partial knee replacement and it is easier to engage in physical therapy promptly after surgery.

When you have the option for a partial knee replacement, postponing the surgery may lead to significant degeneration of the remaining healthy cartilage in your knee. Once damage has occurred throughout your knee, your only remaining surgical option may be a total knee replacement.

Decreased Surgical Risk Factors

Whether you need a partial or total knee replacement surgery, you likely have dealt with significant limitations due to your knee pain. The inability to engage in normal activities can increase your risk factors, making surgery more challenging. Many people experience significant weight gain when they must live a sedentary lifestyle due to limited mobility and chronic pain.

Ideally, you should be close to a healthy weight before having surgery because your weight can increase the risk of post-operative blood clots and make physical therapy more difficult. Additionally, being at an unhealthy weight increases your risk for hypertension and diabetes, which can also contribute to surgical complications, such as bleeding or infection.

Another challenge due to being more sedentary is the toll it can take on your body, even if you maintain a healthy weight. The less you are able to engage in physical activity or even activities of daily living, the more likely you are to lose muscle mass, strength, and flexibility. Although these health indicators are important for daily activities, lack of strength can make post-operative physical therapy and recovery at home more challenging.

Since knee replacements are more common in older people, most often due to osteoarthritis, your age may be an important factor when deciding the timing of your surgery. Advanced age can be a risk factor for surgical complications. If you are otherwise healthy, it is important to have surgery at a point when it is less demanding on the body and easier to recover.

Less Impact On Other Joints

One damaged knee can have a domino effect on other joints, causing pain and damage. Since you have to walk differently and rely more on your other knee, you are likely increasing the wear and tear on your "good" knee and other joints. The longer you delay surgery you probably notice pain in your back, hips, and feet.

Limping due to pain and instability will cause you to shift more weight to your other knee and can often cause low back and hip pain. Sometimes it is less apparent throughout the day, but can be more noticeable if you are sitting for long periods or upon awakening. Fortunately, prompt surgery on your affected knee may eliminate pain in other joints if they are caused by changes in gait and balance.

If you are delaying a knee replacement because you feel like your knee will improve or you will find a less invasive option, you should think carefully about the problems associated with postponing your surgery. Having a knee replacement sooner may translate into an easier recovery, fewer complications, and less damage to other joints.

For more information on knee surgery, talk to a surgeon like Joseph P. Spott, DO.