5 Critical Reasons Not to Wait Too Long for a Knee Replacement

Mon, Aug 21, 2023

5 Critical Reasons Not to Wait Too Long for a Knee Replacement

With more than 750,000 performed annually in the U.S., knee replacement surgery is a common procedure that can help alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with arthritis and other joint issues. But while common, statistics show that 90% of patients who would benefit from the procedure are putting it off. Unfortunately, the dangers of delaying knee replacement surgery can lead patients to have more serious medical complications than they face now.

In this article, we’ll discuss the risks associated with putting off your knee replacement surgery and how you can ensure that you’re making the right decision for your health.

Top 5 Risks of Waiting Too Long for Knee Replacement Surgery

If you are suffering from a painful knee due to osteoarthritis, you may be wondering how bad does a knee have to be before replacement?

Believe it or not, surgery is usually not the first treatment option. You and your doctor will take into consideration:

  • How old you are
  • Any knee pain treatment history
  • Pain level and knee functionality

Before pursuing knee replacement surgery, your doctor may recommend:

  • Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles supporting the knee
  • Ice and heat applications as well as electrical nerve stimulation to increase blood flow to the knee
  • A corticosteroid injection to lessen inflammation, pain, and swelling

When Is It Time for a Knee Replacement?

Generally speaking, knee replacement surgery is recommended when over-the-counter pain medicines have lost their effectiveness and pain keeps you from sleeping; your mobility and quality of life are affected, such as having trouble going up and down stairs or getting in and out of cars; you have knee stiffness getting up in the morning; and you have a diagnosis of advanced end-stage joint disease.

But, despite the pain, many patients will delay surgery because of their fear of the procedure or worry about their recovery. These are the top five risks you can face if you wait too long for knee replacement surgery.

1. Options may become more limited.

As more knee damage occurs, it increases the odds that you will need a full knee joint replacement—you may have been able to get away with a partial knee replacement if the surgery was done sooner.

2. Changes to your general health.

The danger of delaying knee replacement surgery also includes limiting an individual’s ability to participate in physical activities or exercise, which is essential for maintaining cardiovascular health. And reduced physical activity levels can lead to weight gain, which can cause further stress on the knee joint and exacerbate the condition.

As pain increases and knee function is affected, you may notice or develop other changes or concerns, such as:

  • Weakened muscles due to decreased mobility
  • Cardiovascular disease and/or pulmonary conditions due to a more sedentary lifestyle
  • Stress and strain on the back and hips

3. Changes to your mental health.

The stress of living with pain and discomfort, having a lack of mobility, and being unable to do the activities you enjoy with friends and family will take a toll on your mental health. Plus, that stress can negatively affect the body with an increased risk of illness, digestive problems, and emotional disturbances.

4. Slower recovery.

Delaying knee replacement surgery can lead to slower recovery when you do have surgery and raises the risks of additional complications and postoperative infection. This is because the disease has progressed to a more advanced stage. Joint damage can be more extensive, with more pain and inflammation. Additional bone and soft tissue may need to be removed from around your knee joint, and more complex reconstruction techniques may be necessary, resulting in the need for a longer recovery.

5. Delaying surgery reduces the chances of regaining full mobility.

When you consider the additional damage that is done to your knee joint while you wait, combined with the changes to your general and mental health you’ll also need to manage, you can see why delaying knee replacement surgery can have serious consequences that may make it harder to regain full function afterward.

Is Knee Surgery in Your Future?

As it is an effective procedure that has been safely and successfully performed on millions of people, you can trust that you’ll be in better shape after the operation than you were before. Most patients say they wish they had done it sooner!

At the end of the day, knee replacement surgery is a major decision that requires careful consideration. If you’re experiencing severe joint pain or stiffness, it’s important to speak with your doctor about your options and whether or not knee replacement is right for you. Taking the time to make an informed decision now can help ensure that you get the most out of your treatment.

Talk to a North Carolina Specialty Hospital Knee Replacement Expert

If you’re suffering from knee pain and are concerned about moving forward with knee replacement surgery, North Carolina Specialty Hospital can provide the expert guidance you need to make the right decision for your situation. We’ve been the Triangle region’s best health care partner since we opened our doors in 1926. Learn more about our joint replacement program here.

We’re there for you every part of the way: before your knee replacement, during the procedure, and for your entire knee replacement recovery time. So please don’t hesitate to let us help you get back to living pain-free and enjoying life. To request an appointment, click on the surgeon’s photo and complete the form. We look forward to helping you get back to better joint health and the life you’ve been missing.

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