Knee replacement surgery may be recommended to patients with knee osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or a traumatic injury to the knee. It entails the removal of damaged cartilage and bone surfaces, the implantation of metal components, the insertion of a spacer to create a gliding surface between the metal components and, sometimes, resurfacing of the knee cap.
Current clinical guidelines for the procedure suggest that, as with most surgeries, it is performed as a last resort. It should only be prescribed when pain is severe, activity is extremely restricted and, finally, conservative options including physical therapy and medications have been exhausted to no avail.
A recent study into 175 patients who received knee replacement surgery suggests that the procedure isn’t being treated as a last resort. Researchers made use of a modified version of an established appropriateness measurement system as well as the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index to assess how many instances of surgery could be deemed conclusively appropriate, inconclusively appropriate or inappropriate.
Alarmingly, the researchers found only 44% of knee replacement surgeries to be conclusively appropriate. Twenty-two percent were inconclusive, and 34% were deemed inappropriate.
See more on this study at www.sciencedaily.com.
Between 1991 and 2010, performance of knee replacement surgeries among Medicare patients has increased at a rate of 162% annually. Similar notable increases in spinal fusion surgery sparked concerns that reimbursements to hospitals, combined with kickbacks to surgeons from device-makers, may be involved in the increased implementation of the invasive procedure more than effectiveness and concern for the patient’s well-being.
Knee replacement surgery comes with risks, including: blood clots, nerve damage, failure to eliminate pain, infection, artery damage, loss of motion in the knee and implant failure.
Make sure you’ve exhausted all your alternatives before opting for knee replacement surgery; just because it is recommended to you doesn’t mean it’s your best option. Consider the following alternatives:
• Physical Therapy
• Weight Loss (when appropriate)
• Stem Cell Therapy (may only be available through clinical trial enrollment)
For more on alternatives to surgery, see www.healthline.com.
Knee osteoarthritis treatment can often be accomplished without surgery. Be sure you’ve got all your bases covered before opting for knee replacement surgery.