Right from a heavy fall in the playgrounds, to an on-road collision – there can be a variety of causes that can result in your knee joint getting severely damaged. There is no particular reason to despair on this count though, since complete or partial knee joint replacements (as the consultant doctor deems necessary) are performed regularly in India. The onus, however, is on you to clarify all doubts about the surgical process and the post-operative care regimen. Here are the eleven most important questions that you should ask your orthopaedic specialist:
- Can chronic blood clotting problems stand in the way of getting healed quickly? – If your blood does not tend to clot easily, inform the orthopaedic doctor about the same before the operation. In case you have a history of blood infections – make sure that the surgeon is aware of that as well.
- What is the quality of the prosthetic(s) to be used? – Request the doctor to use imported, top-quality artificial joints for knee replacements. Prosthetics of local make generally bear slightly lower price tags, but their efficacy and reliability over time remains suspect. You should not have to get the prosthetic replaced before 12-15 years (at the earliest).
- How long would the knee be in a protective cast? – For a few days after a complete knee joint replacement surgery, the limb would be encased in a cast. For partial replacements too, such casts would be used – albeit for a lesser number of days. Find out for how long the cast has to be retained, and make sure that the joint is not exposed to sudden, strong jerks in the interim.
- Would you need a blood thinning agent? – In order to prevent infections, orthopaedic specialists usually recommend using a blood thinner, right after an artificial knee joint has been inserted. Inquire in detail about the type of blood thinner you would require (if at all). You should also be aware of the duration for which the thinner has to be used.
- Can lung problems be an issue? – Yes they can – and that’s exactly why you should mention such problems (if present) to the orthopaedic surgeon. If you have lung clots and/or chronic asthma, acute respiratory problems can be experienced after the application of anesthesia. Even if it is a relatively minor custom fit knee surgery you are going for, lung problems should never be ignored.
- Would walking aids be required? – As you resume movements after a knee replacement surgery, you would probably be advised to use crutches, canes or knee braces for the first 2-3 weeks. Make sure that you follow the advice, to minimize chances of falls (which can cause further damages to the tender joint). In certain cases, special medical stockings might also have to be worn, to keep the knee joint properly compressed.
- What can be the probable after-effects of a knee surgery? – Most knee surgeons have the expertise and knowhow to complete joint replacement operations in the best possible manner – but the risks of problematic after-effects cannot be ruled out altogether. Find out about the inflammations, enhanced bone tenderness, and/or acute pains that might be experienced after the surgery. Make sure that you can get in touch with the doctor, in case of any such emergency.
- What would be the medications you need to have while recuperating? – Post-operative medications after knee replacements are not only about painkillers. You will, in all likelihood, have to take vitamin pills, anti-inflammatory pills, and other supplementary medicines. Get a thorough idea of the courses of these medicines, so that confusions do not arise later.
- Which knee rehabilitation exercises would be ideal for you? – To get back the lost mobility in your knee joint, you will gradually have to start following a regular exercise schedule. Application of heat and ice is necessary for the first 6-7 days after a knee joint replacement surgery. If there are no complications, you can proceed to light joint stretching exercises (as advised by the orthopaedic doctor).
- Will arthroscopic techniques be used for the surgery? – Advanced knee replacement surgeries are generally carried out with arthroscopic aids. This involves the insertion of a small camera-piece inside the joint – to provide a real-time feed about whether the joint is being inserted and set in the correct manner. In case your knee surgeon is in favor of using this technique, find out whether it would add to the overall expenses (and by how much).
- How long do you need to wait, before resuming your professional life? – If you are professionally employed, you need to know the duration for which you should stay on medical leave. Depending on whether you have undergone a partial or complete knee replacement, and whether yours is a desk job or not – a resting period of one to two months is recommended. Trying to rejoin work too soon might land you back at a hospital!
Inquire about how much the total bill for the knee joint replacement surgery is likely to be. While desperately trying to save money on a major orthopaedic procedure makes no sense at all, such information would help you arrange for the requisite funds from beforehand. Knee replacements are way less risky than what they used to be a couple of decades back – but that does not mean you can afford to be lax about it!