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Don’t Wait Too Long to Have Knee Replacement Surgery

Summit Orthopedics knee expert Dane Hansen, D.O., explains why you shouldn’t wait to have your knee replaced.

“A recent article in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery found that about 90 percent of people wait longer than necessary to have knee replacement surgery, often waiting two years or more beyond the point at which they are considered a reasonable candidate for the procedure,” Dr. Hansen said.

The reluctance is understandable—knee replacement surgery is a significant procedure, and the recovery period can be tough. People who need to work full time, or who don’t have enough help at home, may want to put off surgery until they can’t stand the pain and stiffness anymore. But according to Dr. Hansen, that is not the best idea for your health and quality of life.

“Research suggests that preoperative function predicts postoperative function,” Dr. Hansen said. “In other words, the worse off you are before surgery, the less likely you are to have an excellent outcome over the long term.”

The drawbacks of waiting to have knee replacement surgery

When you wait to have knee replacement surgery, you’re not just putting off an unpleasant experience. You’re dealing with chronic knee pain for longer. The pain and stiffness often cause patients to become less active, which can result in weight gain and even more pain.

“As you’re dealing with it longer, your health and wellness tend to be going downhill as well,” Dr. Hansen said. “By the time you have the surgery, you’re older, less active, less healthy, in more pain, with less function. It’s not a good mix.”

The knee replacement surgery itself can be more complicated in patients who have waited longer than recommended. More damage and inflammation can translate to a longer surgical time, with a higher risk of complications after surgery, such as blood clots or infection. Even with a completely successful surgery, patients who waited to have knee replacement surgery tend to have lower function and higher rates of dissatisfaction with their surgeries.

Knee pain takes a toll

Chronic joint pain can also have a debilitating effect on your mental health. Studies on the psychological effects of chronic pain show that decreased mobility affects quality of life, mood, and general function. Chronic pain and an inability to participate in activities you once enjoyed can contribute to depression.

“These procedures are very beneficial and very effective,” Dr. Hansen said. “I certainly understand the anxiety people feel. But there is lots of research that shows this is a successful procedure that will really improve quality of life in patients suffering from knee arthritis.”

The best argument against waiting too long may be what we see when patients require their second knee to also be replaced. “They tend to seek treatment sooner and consider knee replacement earlier in the process. They have learned how successful it can be and what they are missing out on by waiting,” Dr. Hansen said.

When to seek treatment for your arthritis

Arthritis doesn’t have to spell the end of an active life. If you are experiencing worrisome symptoms or persistent pain, the renowned arthritis specialists at Summit Orthopedics can help. We work with you to confirm a diagnosis and develop an appropriate conservative treatment plan. If nonsurgical treatments fail to support your lifestyle goals, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons will consult with you and discuss appropriate surgical options. Summit is home to innovative joint replacement options. Our Vadnais Heights Surgery Center is one of a select few nationally to receive The Joint Commission’s Advanced Certification for Total Hip and Total Knee Replacement.

Start your journey to healthier joints. Find your arthritis expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Plymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.

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