For anyone who has gone back and forth with their insurance company discussing coverage options, you know that knee replacement surgery is viewed as an elective operation. By nature, elective surgeries are operations that we can schedule and control, as opposed to emergency operations that are performed after acute trauma.
Because we have a little more freedom in determining when we schedule these elective operations, many people put them off a little longer than they should. Even though they may not need to be performed immediately, delaying an elective surgery can still negatively affect your surgical outcome. Below, we take a closer look at why you should be hesitant to put off your knee replacement operation if you’ve been told you’re a candidate.
The Problems Associated With Delayed Knee Replacement
To better understand how knee replacement timing affects surgical outcomes, researchers at the Northwestern University School Feinberg School of Medicine conducted a study involving more than 8,000 patients who underwent a knee replacement operation. Researchers looked at a number of different factors, including joint function, pain, imaging assessment and age to determine the optimal time for each patient to undergo a replacement operation.
After looking at the data, researchers concluded that 90 percent of patients with osteoarthritis in their knee had waited too long to get their knee replaced. But what exactly is the downside to waiting too long for the elective knee replacement? Researchers stated that problems started even before the procedure, as patients who were past the optimal point for replacement were at a point where they were struggling to be active due to knee pain. This inactivity can lead to weight gain, which further stresses the knee, and there was also the increased likelihood of developing a mental health condition like depression due to inhibited activity.
The disadvantages of waiting only intensified after patients went under the knife. Patients who waited too long for a knee replacement operation didn’t get as much function restored in the joint on average compared to those who had the procedure performed in the optimal window.
“Your mobility is still reduced versus somebody who had it in a timely fashion,” said lead researcher Hassan Ghomrawi, PhD, MPH, associate professor of surgery at the Northwestern University School Feinberg School of Medicine.
However, it’s not as simple as running to a surgeon for a replacement operation at the first sign of an issue either. Having the procedure performed too soon can lead to minimal benefits, and it can result in the need for a revision operation later in life, which is more difficult and tends to have poorer outcomes.
We know that there are a lot of factors that influence your decision to have your knee replaced. The surgery and your inability to work can have economic effects on your family, and there are plenty of additional reasons why people push their knee surgery to a later date. That said, we really urge you to listen to your surgeon’s recommendations and to have your knee examined if you’re starting to develop painful symptoms. Despite our best efforts, one of the most common phrases we hear in our office is “I wish I would have had my knee replaced sooner.” And while we’re happy that we can help patients eliminate pain and get back to an active lifestyle, we also know that there’s a chance that their eventual outcomes may have been better had they undergone the procedure months or years earlier.
So if you’ve been told that you’ll need to have your knee replaced in the future, or you’re wondering if you should schedule your operation soon, contact a knee replacement surgeon like Dr. Botero and get a comprehensive evaluation and individualized recommendation. Let us help preserve the most knee function possible by ensuring you have your knee surgery at the optimal time. For more information or to connect to Dr. Botero’s clinic, give him a call today at (865) 558-4444.