Haims: Total knee replacement: Is it the right choice for you? (column) | VailDaily.com

Haims: Total knee replacement: Is it the right choice for you? (column)

Judson Haims
Special to the Daily

Total knee replacement surgery is prolific. While projections may only be statistical guesses, reputable organizations such as the National Center for Biotechnology Information the Joint Commission and the Elsevier journals state that the incidence rate of total knee replacements is projected to increase between 700 percent and 800 percent.

What is driving the increase?

There are many factors driving the increase in knee-replacement surgery. Perhaps top of the list may be that the success rate currently exceeds 90 percent and most patients state that the procedure significantly improved their quality of life.

Further, the efficiency of the surgical procedure is astounding. My total knee replacement operation took less than an hour and I was discharged to go home that same day. While some elder patients may stay a night or two at the hospital for observation, I find it amazing that patients are so quickly able to return home and immediately begin physical therapy.

“Advances in technology, techniques and shortened surgical times have also contributed to better patient outcomes. Technological developments of new metals and plastics are proving to increase ware and durability of the joint replacement. Additionally, many believe that computer technology is assisting in more accurate bone cuts and aiding in more accurate alignment of the leg. ... While there will always be points of view that challenge new technologies, many surgeons who are receptive and adopting such advancements believe they will lend to greater patient satisfaction and extend the longevity of the replacements beyond 20 years.”

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Not so long ago, a two- to three-day stay at the hospital was often the norm after a knee replacement.

Advances in technology, techniques and shortened surgical times have also contributed to better patient outcomes.

Technological developments of new metals and plastics are proving to increase ware and durability of the joint replacement.

Additionally, many believe that computer technology is assisting in more accurate bone cuts and aiding in more accurate alignment of the leg.

While there will always be points of view that challenge new technologies, many surgeons who are receptive and adopting such advancements believe they will lend to greater patient satisfaction and extend the longevity of the replacements beyond 20 years.

Changes in techniques that improve flexion and extension and better the understanding of soft tissues, bone, cartilage and ligaments may contribute to better outcomes.

Deciding to undergo a knee replacement is a major life decision. There are no guaranteed outcomes, and to increase your chances of success, due diligence is extremely important.

• Get referrals: Ask family, friends and health care providers for recommendations.

• Check credentials: Go online and check the surgeon's education and degrees and look for publications and articles he or she may have published.

• Check on experience levels: Ask the surgeon how many procedures he or she performs monthly.

• Ask about rehabilitation times: Don't assume that all surgeons will answer this the same.

When I researched surgeons, I looked both in and out of state. For me, the most viable option was an in-state surgeon. I knew I would need quite a bit of personal help after surgery.

I also felt that it was important to do physical therapy and have follow-up visits within the area I live. Additionally, as I mentioned last week, many of my clients became clients because they needed post-surgical help. This provided me a lot of insight for my post-surgical planning.

For those who choose a surgeon who is out of state, understand you may need someone to help you with recovery for at least the first week, possibly even a second week. Pain management, meals and transportation will be challenging.

When I met with my doctor, I was comforted with his patience in answering my many questions. I found that his answer to my question about what made him and his team unique intriguing. He explained to me that his techniques and the efficiency in which his surgical team works is very much like a finely tuned dance in which everybody has perfected his or her part and timing.

I felt that his use of technologies, perfected techniques, experience and frequency of performing knee replacement surgeries made him the best choice for me.

I am four weeks post-surgery. Outside of building up atrophied muscles and allowing my body to heal, I have completely regained a high quality of life and activity.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact him at 970-328-5526 or visit http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns.