How Can I Get the Best Result from My Total Knee Replacement?

We spoke with Summit sports medicine surgeon Mikhail Klimstra, M.D., about what you can do to get the best result from your total knee replacement.

If you’re considering total knee replacement surgery, it’s natural to be nervous. But there’s good news: There is a lot you can do to get a great result from total knee replacement surgery.

“A very common discussion I have with patients in the clinic is when is the right time to do surgery, if at all?” said Mikhail Klimstra, M.D., a sports medicine surgeon at Summit Orthopedics. “The time to have surgery is up to you. It comes down to a quality-of-life issue.”

There is no quick fix for arthritis, and the pain, inflammation, and stiffness of an arthritic knee can worsen over time. To decide when the right time is for surgery, patients should consider whether they’ve exhausted the nonsurgical treatment strategies designed to improve symptoms, function, and quality of life. These include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Physical therapy
  • Weight loss to offload the knee
  • Injection therapy

Ultimately, the question comes down to when patients are ready to do a total knee replacement. “The best time is really when you, as an individual, feel like you can’t keep living like this. We have all these treatment options, and pinning down how aggressive you want to be is a key part of the ongoing discussions between you and your provider,” Dr. Klimstra said.

Getting ready for a great total knee replacement result

Other than deciding on the best time for a knee replacement, it’s also smart to prepare yourself ahead of time by optimizing your health. The stronger and healthier you are before surgery, the better your results tend to be. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Work with your doctor to address other health conditions. “There are things you can do with your primary care provider to optimize comorbidities, potentially decreasing the chance of complications after surgery,” Dr. Klimstra said.
  2. Consider working on improving strength, conditioning, and mobility. This can make a big difference the rehabilitation and recovery after total knee replacement surgery. “Engaging in a close partnership with a physical therapist beforehand can help you go into surgery in top physical condition, and sometimes can even help get you feeling better to the point of delaying or avoiding surgery,” Dr. Klimstra said.
  3. Maintain good nutrition. “From a healing standpoint, coming in with good nutrition, and then continuing to have good nutrition after surgery, is a smart choice,” Dr. Klimstra said.
  4. Have good support around you at home to help with recovery. Having someone to coach you and push you to participate fully in rehabilitation is key.
  5. Having appropriate expectations and attitude about what recovery looks like. “With arthritis, total knee replacement is a very good fix – but it’s not the same as turning back the clock or reversing the aging process,” Dr. Klimstra said. “It’s not the knee of a 20-year-old.”

The most important way to get a great result from your total knee replacement, Dr. Klimstra said, is to develop a strong partnership with your orthopedic surgeon, as you work together before and after surgery.

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  • Mikhail A. Klimstra, M.D.

    My goal is to form a partnership with my patients, working together to create a treatment plan that best addresses their concerns and achieves their goals. Helping patients recover from their injuries, and getting them back to pursuing activities and sports is why I love my job.

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