The following content is created in consultation with the Rothman Institute. It does not reflect the work or opinions of NBC Philadelphia's editorial staff. To learn more about how knee replacement surgery could be right for you, visit Rothmaninstitute.com.
Millions of Americans suffer from arthritis-induced knee pain, a condition that can range from discomforting to totally debilitating. Rather than enjoy life, many of these people are forced to deal with limited mobility, literally counting the steps they’re forced to take on a day-to-day basis.
Thankfully, knee replacement surgery is an effective method to treat knee pain -- whether it stems from arhritis, disease or injury. By replacing worn cartilage between the femur and tibia with caps that act as cushions, patients receive a joint that articulates like a normal, healthy-functioning knee. In the majority of cases, patients return to their normal quality of life.
And yet despite these statistics, many Americans still fear undergoing knee replacement surgery. As it turns out, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the entire procedure, from the surgery itself to the recovery time.
In order to get a better understanding of the most common myths about knee surgery we spoke to Dr. Matt Austin, Director of Joint Replacement Services at Philadelphia’s Rothman Institute. Performing more than 11,000 surgeries annually, Rothman is recognized as one of the nation’s top joint replacement centers.
- Doctors Will Immediately Push Knee Surgery
Contrary to common belief, orthopedic physicians want to exhaust all treatment options before resorting to surgery. “Knee replacement surgery is actually the last option,” Dr. Austin explains. Instead, your medical team will offer a holistic approach that focuses on a broad range of non-operative treatment modalities, from recommended rest and physical therapy to anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone shots and viscosupplementation — a procedure which lubricates the knee joint.
- The Post Operative Period Will Be Painful
Many patients fear the recovery time following knee replacement surgery, when nausea, lethargy and other issues can set in. However, Rothman’s holistic approach to knee replacement surgery severely decreases the likelihood of post operative discomfort. “We use a multi modal treatment plan that begins before the surgery and includes many non-narcotic medications as well as local numbing medication," Dr. Austin says. This reduces patient pain during and after surgery, while the use of non-narcotic pain killers reduces the risk of nausea during the recovery period.
- Three Months Off
Another common fear is that knee surgery requires three months of recovery time, meaning a patient will be unable to work — or, in some cases, collect a paycheck — for some 12 weeks. However, thanks to the advances in both knee replacement surgery techniques and recovery methods, Dr. Austin says that “many patients can return to work in as little as six weeks — especially in jobs that are less physically demanding.”
- Knee Replacements Fail After 10-12 Years
False as well — modern knee replacements are incredibly durable. “Knee replacements aren’t like cars,” Dr. Austin explains, “they don’t fail after 100,000 miles.” So how much “mileage” can you expect? “90 percent of new knees still work 10 years after surgery, while 80 percent still work 20 years later,” says Dr. Austin.
- Over Emphasis on Specific Surgical Techniques
We put a lot of emphasis on modern surgical techniques and terms like “minimally invasive,” but how we recover actually matters more. “Surgical technique, while important, is not the main factor in recovery time,” Dr. Austin explains. “Managing patients’ pain and rehab after surgery matters as much or more than surgery.” For the patient, that means diligenty following therapy protocols, using non-narcotic pain medications, and having a positive mindset that allows them to put in the effort to heal faster.
Don’t let knee pain hinder your quality of life any longer. To learn more about knee replacement surgery and how you can start living the life you love again, visit Rothmaninstitute.com.