Considering Knee-Replacement Surgery For Seniors (Pros & Cons)

Do you see your mother clenching her hands due to knee pain, or your father rubbing his knees because of the pain he had walking up the stairs? The more it breaks your heart to see your parents in such pain; it cannot be denied that after a certain age, almost everyone has to go through such painful experiences. Regular pain in the joints can be an indication that your parents are suffering from arthritis or other ailments of the joints or bones. Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of joints that usually occur in senior citizens, making joint movements harder for them. The most commonly affected parts of the body due to arthritis and such ailments are the feet, hands, hips, knees, and the lower back.

However, please don’t worry; such diseases can mostly be treated through medication, physical therapy, and therapeutic injections. However, some diseases require surgeries, and one such commonly suggested surgery for seniors is knee replacement surgery. We’ll dive deeper into the situations warranting knee replacement surgery, and its pros and cons for seniors. 

What Is Knee Replacement? 

Knee replacement, also called total knee replacement or knee arthroplasty, is the medical procedure to replace a knee damaged by ailments. The knee replacement surgery is a vital surgery for pain relief and rids severely damaged knee joints. The surgery comprises the replacement of a damaged knee part with an artificial joint made of high-grade plastic and metal alloys. 

Types Of Knee Replacement 

There are four major types of knee replacement surgery, namely: 

  • Total knee replacement – The traditional method for repairing a damaged knee is known as total knee replacement surgery.  
  • Unicompartmental (partial) knee replacement – Partial knee replacement sometimes referred to as unicompartmental knee replacement includes the replacement of only a part of the knee to preserve original healthy bone.  
  • Knee cap replacement (patellofemoral arthroplasty) – The Kneecap replacement surgery also known as a patellofemoral replacement, includes the damaged bone and cartilage both being replaced with plastic or metal components. 
  • Complex or revision knee replacement – Complex total knee replacement technique is usually recommended for major knee ligaments, severe arthritis, knee deformity, weakness, and bone loss due to arthritis or fracture. 

Symptoms Of Arthritis – A Common Reason For Knee Replacement 

Arthritis pain may vary from person to person; it could be mild for some people and severe pain for others. Some symptoms of arthritis include-  

  • Pain in joints 
  • Redness in certain areas of the body like fingers, toes, and knees 
  • Stiffness of joints restricting movement  
  • Swelling in joints or near joint area 
  • Tenderness 
  • Warmth 
  • clicking or popping of bones with bending 
  • bony growths in the fingers 
  • fatigue 
  • low-grade fever 
  • inflammation of the eyes and mouth  

When To Consider Knee Replacement Surgery? 

When the condition gets severe and restricts movement of the body, and you have to go through immense pain in daily basic activities like walking, climbing the stairs, sitting, or lying down, then it is recommended to have knee replacement surgery. Though doctors always advise trying other treatments first, it depends on the affected person and their condition. You should consider surgery if you have:  

  • Moderate or severe knee pain while resting  
  • Long-lasting knee inflammation and swelling that is not managed by medications 
  • Bowing in and out of your leg (legs curving outward at knees) 
  • Severe knee pain that limits your everyday activities  

What Is The Best Age To Have Knee Replacement Surgery? 

The age bracket of 50 – 70 years is the most common and best age to have knee replacement surgery. 

What Are The Risks Of Knee Replacement Surgery? 

Knee replacement surgery includes risks such as:  

  • Infection 
  • Blood clots in lungs 
  • Heart attack 
  • Stroke 
  • Bleeding 
  • Nerve damage 
  • Loosening or wearing out of the prosthesis 
  • Fracture  
  • Continued pain or stiffness 

How Painful Is A Total Knee Replacement? 

  • Knee replacement surgery procedure hurts you way more than hip replacement surgery. 
  • After the surgery, the pain is no longer aching and arthritic. 
  • A large percentage of knee replacement patients report little pain around the 3-month mark. 
  • Pain, swelling, and bruising are part of the natural recovery process. 
  • Fear and anxiety about pain and surgery can also arise.

How To Prepare For Knee Replacement Surgery? 

Getting nervous about knee replacement surgery is common, but if you prepare yourself beforehand, you’ll set yourself up for successful recovery. Below are the preparation tips to follow: 

  • Prepare your home for life after knee replacement surgery (move tripping hazards to avoid falls or add safety rails to your bathroom). 
  • Start exercises to strengthen your body (and knee) before surgery. 
  • Cut back on substances like alcohol and tobacco that can complicate your surgery process.  
  • Go to your pre-op appointment to know all the initial precautions you need to take and prepare yourself for the day of the surgery.  
  • Check with your doctor to see if you need to adjust your medications. 
  • Arrange a ride home and prepay for the treatment as it can get difficult to arrange such logistics post-surgery.  
  • Accompany a friend or family for emotional and physical support.  

 Disadvantages Of Knee Replacement Surgery 

Just like any other surgery, knee replacement surgery has its drawbacks and one should consider these before making up their mind about the knee replacement surgery: 

  • Infection – Infection is a serious condition and may concern the skin, muscles, or artificial joints. Sometimes the infection is so severe it requires another surgery. 
  • Artificial Joint Becomes Loose or Dislocates – after your knee replacement surgery, the artificial joint is inserted and cemented into place. Unfortunately, the cement does not always hold, resulting in loose or dislocated joints.  
  • Allergic Reactions – artificial knee replacement surgery involves prosthesis, patients can be allergic to the prosthesis, leading to allergic reactions.  
  • Nerve Damage – nerve damage can occur during the surgery that can cause numbness, weakness, foot drop, tingling, burning, or pricking sensation.  
  • Damage to Tendons and Ligaments – tendons and ligaments can get injured during surgery causing pain, restricted movement, and instability. 
  • Anesthesia complications – vomiting, dizziness, breathing difficulties, and other cognitive dysfunction are common side effects of anesthesia.  
  • Knee Stiffness and Loss of Motion – many patients after knee replacement can experience knee stiffness and loss of motion, limiting walking and playing sports.  
  • Persistent Pain – Despite knee replacement, up to 40 % of patients continue to have ongoing pain.  
  • A Buildup of Toxic Metal Ions in the Blood – Knee prostheses are composed of metals that, with wear and tear, can leak into the blood, creating illness.  
  • Differences in Leg Length – Conditions such as knock-knees and bow-legs are corrected at the time of surgery, sometimes it results in the differences in length of the leg.  
  • Increased Risk of a Heart Attack – the risk of a heart attack in patients increases after a knee replacement surgery.  
  • Wound and Bleeding Complications – the healing process of wounds is slow in patients suffering from diabetes.  
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) – This is a serious medical condition in which a blood clot is formed in more than one of the deep veins in your body. 
  • Replacement Joints Wear Out – Artificial knee joints do not last forever and tend to wear out. If you are overweight, do heavy manual labor, or play vigorous sports, the chances of knee replacement wearing out are more. 
  • Additional Surgery – in rare cases when the operation leads to infection or dislocation of any element of the body, then an additional surgery is required.  

Knee Replacement Surgery Cost 

The knee replacement surgery cost in India is approximately between Rs.1,50,000 and Rs.3,80,000. 

New Knee Replacement Technology 2020 

Minimally-invasive quadriceps-sparing total knee replacement is a new surgical technique that permits doctors to insert the time-tested reliable knee replacement inserts through a smaller incision (3-4 inches) using a surgical method that evades shock to the quadriceps muscle which is the most important muscle group around the knee. The less-traumatic nature of the surgical approach also may reduce post-operative pain and reduce the need for rehab and remedy compared to more traditional approaches. 

Remember, it is important to consult an expert physician when thinking of such major surgical procedures. The conditions for a successful recovery from knee replacement surgery may vary from person to person, owing to individual differences. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the downside of knee replacement?

The disadvantages of knee replacement surgery are as follows-  
The artificial joint becomes loose or dislocates  
Allergic reactions  
Nerve damage  
Damage to tendons and ligaments  
Knee stiffness and loss of motion  
Persistent pain  
Toxic metal ions build up in the blood  
Differences in leg length  
Increased risk of a heart attack  
Wound and bleeding complications  
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)   
Replacement joints ear out requiring additional surgery  

At what age is knee replacement not recommended?  

Knee replacement surgery is not recommended if you’re younger than 50 years. The doctor’s recommendations for surgery are based on the patient’s stages of disability and pain. Mostly, the patients who undergo a total knee replacement are aged between 50 and 80.  

What are the pros and cons of knee replacement?  

Pros of knee replacement surgery-  
Pain relief   
Improved mobility  
Better treatment response  
Faster recovery  
Improvement in every aspect of your health  
High success and satisfaction rates   

Cons of knee replacement surgery-  
Replacement joints wear out, requiring additional surgery  
Increased risk of a heart attack  
A buildup of toxic metal ions in the blood  
Damage to tendons and ligaments  
Allergic reactions  
Nerve damage  

How long does it take to recover from a knee replacement?

3 – 6 weeks after your knee replacement surgery, you will be able to do many everyday activities. It might take 4 to 16 weeks to completely resume daily operations.  

Is a knee replacement a major operation?  

Yes, knee replacement surgery is a major operation as it involves removing the damaged bone and replacing it with an artificial joint made up of metal alloys, plastics, and even polymers.  

What is the best age to have a knee replacement?  

50 – 70 years is the most common and the best age to have knee replacement surgery.

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