The Knee Surgery Decision: What to expect and common concerns

By Dr. Geoffrey Wright,

When it comes to caring for orthopaedic patients, there’s one thing I know I can’t do – I can’t turn back the clock. If you’re 60 years-old, I can’t make your body 20 again.

That’s not to say you have to live life with pain, however.

A few years ago, I was at a friend’s rehearsal dinner and saw his mother walking on the other side of the room. It was a happy day for the family, but I could see the pain she was in as she moved. The mechanics of the body were clearly offset.

I couldn’t help but go over and talk to her, and that’s when I learned that she had consulted with surgeons in the past regarding her knee. While both she and her son were educated about the options for treatment, she was still reluctant to do anything about it (even though she spent most of her time in a wheelchair or barely moving). The truth is, she was a great candidate for knee replacement surgery.

Many times, patients have the mindset that it’s better to avoid the risk of surgery and just live with pain.

The truth is, however, that most hip and knee replacement patients are very happy with their results and their decision to have surgery. I always tell my patients that if they can give me an hour and a half in surgery and about six weeks afterward, they will feel significantly better afterward than they do today.

A common fear patients have about surgery is the unknown. Everyone has heard a disaster story about infection or amputation, and sometimes, it’s easy to focus on the negative. However, if you chose to focus on the positive instead, the benefits of a knee reconstruction surgery can outweigh the risks by a long shot.

In fact, 90 percent of people who have knee replacements experience a lot less pain and get to return to doing activities they love. The average age for knee replacement is now under 65.  More importantly however, even after 20 years, 85 percent of those artificial knees are still working well.

The data is important to understand, but I’ve also learned that it’s about the trust factor with your surgeon. There are two assurances I make to my patients in their first appointment with me. The first is that I will always be clear on expectations. The more you know about the surgery, and your body, the more confident you can be about your experience as a whole and your recovery.

The second assurance is that you’re not in this alone. From pre-surgery to post-op, I’m here to be an advocate for my patient.  We will work together to minimize your pain and maximize your mobility whether this is through surgery or not.  If surgery is the answer, I will be there afterward to help you get to where we both want you to be.

What I love most about my job is the ability to stay connected or reconnect with my patients to see how surgery has improved their lives.

Ultimately, my friend’s mother did have knee reconstruction surgery, and she’s never been happier or more mobile. Every patient is different and has to arrive to the decision about surgery with their medical team when they are ready, but when they do, there are doctors out there like me who want to take away the pain and help you live your best life again.



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