Knee Replacement Surgery: A Personal Story


Have you known someone who was scheduled for a knee replacement and thought, "Oh, no big deal"?

Well, from someone who has been there, believe me, it is a really big deal!

I am now nine days post-surgery, and I can't say I feel much better than I did the day after my procedure.

The pain is, at times, excruciating. I am taking Dilaudid and Tylenol for pain, and manage to keep the pain level to a 3 out of 10 most of the time. But, especially at night, after hours of lying in one position, it can become unbearable.

My hospital stay lasted four days and then I went to a rehabilitation facility for five days. The care was wonderful, and I'll never complain about hospital food again.

I have food allergies and irritable bowel syndrome, all of which were accommodated without question. When I told them at the rehab facility that the only bread My IBS would tolerate was sourdough bread, they sent someone to the local co-op food store to get a loaf of bakery fresh bread! Now that's personalized treatment.

Getting back to the surgery and the after-effects themselves; the exercise routine is rigid, painful and necessary. I'm not very good at regimentation, and so I look for any excuse not to do the required exercises. However, I have been forewarned that the development of scar tissue from lack of exercise could be cause for further surgery or a permanently stiffened knee joint.

Then there is the Coumadin—a blood thinner is necessary to keep blood clots from forming in the affected limb.

The physical therapist came to the house today to work with me. Upon checking my Coumadin level she found it to be very high; so high that she could not put me through my paces, and instructed me not to do any further exercise until the level is re-checked in a day or two. The danger of internal bleeding is very high at this point.

Also, no washing dishes, cutting up vegetables or anything else that might possibly result in a cut.

So, I am off KP duty. My wonderful sister and "nurse maid" left this morning for her home in Western New York, and Charlie was an Air Force officer (and everyone knows officers don't do KP).

So what's a recovering patient to do?

They tell me the pain and immobility will last for months, and that I can't drive for at least six weeks.

So you can see, knee surgery is a very big deal—certainly not something to be entered into if there are other options.

Would I have the other knee done? Not on your life—at least, not based on what I know today.

Ask me again in six months or so.

Marlis describes herself as a “Gramma who loves technology and has a lot to say.” She blogs about whatever catches her interest: food, books, family and more. For, she writes about the issues facing the elderly and her experiences caring for her husband, Charlie, who suffers from dementia.

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I had both my knees done, 4 months apart two years ago. I agree with you I would never do it again. I will tell you that I am so glad that I had it done. The benefits of having my knees replace are far greater than the pain I had to endure.
Had first knee done 8 years ago -- age 60 and was considerably overweight. Came home from hospital in 4 days . . . lots of pain both in hospital and once I got home esp. at night. Moving around was difficult but I started PT immediately and also did my exercises religiously. Had a lot of swelling of knee and was pretty miserable for the first 2 or 3 weeks.

A couple of years later I did have surgery to remove scar tissue (knee snapped all the time -- called Paetella Clunk -- it is common). Out-patient surgery took about 20 mins, no pain or recovery issues; walking immediately and is well worth the bother if you are having problems with the new knee. It made a huge difference in my comfort, so much so that I decided to have my other knee done.

Second knee replaced 3 years ago. Huge difference. Maybe it was the improvement in how procedures are done; maybe it was that I was 40 lbs. lighter (definitely a factor), did not have the swelling and the pain was most bothersome for about 2 weeks. I was outside walking with a cane the first week.

I have found that the knees get better and better as the years go by. I have much less arthritic pain throughout my body now that my knees are working well. Virtually no pain in knees -- although you are always aware that you have a prosthesis in them. You just get used to it.

All-in-all it improved my quality of life greatly and I would certainly do it again.
BTW, my husband has had 2 hips and 2 knees replaced starting at age 56 . . . last one done 2 years ago at age 69 . . . no major problems at all and he does everything he used to do -- even stuff he is not supposed to do.

I hope this is of some help to those facing decision re surgery. Everyone is different and so are the outcomes. I believe that the majority of people who have replacement surgery are grateful for the improvement in their quality of life.
An interesting article and interesting comments. It's good to see a little balance when it comes to the experience of TKR. I was told I would need TKR about 7 or 8 yrs ago, but decided I would try everything else before resorting to surgery. I'm sure that my experience doesn't apply to everyone, just as is the case with TKR, but I found a combination of joint supplements that completely solved my problem. I still have my own knee joint & have no pain or stiffness. I work out hard 5X/wk without limitation. The product I use is called Omniflex - contains fish & krill oil, collagen and rosehips and pine bark. I am very happy with my outcome, just as some of the TKR people are happy with theirs. Needless to say, avoiding the downside of TKR was a blessing.