Saturday, August 17, 2013

What About the Other Knee: Replace It, Too?

After days of rain, we just had a little peek-a-boo from the sun. There, that's my note of optimism for the day. Rain remains in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow.

Try as I might, I can't always be chipper on this blog, After all, it is mainly about striving for continued mobility and a decent level of fitness into old age. Unfortunately, body parts have a way of breaking down and needing repair or replacement as you get into your eighth decade. My intended message, though, is that we should never give up. Keep on moving. When you need physical therapy or medical treatment, accept it and even embrace it. Strive for full enjoyment of life.


  I offer that little snippet of philosophy as I begin to realize that my replaced knee -- technically, my TKA (total knee arthoplasty) knee -- is now clearly my best, strongest, most pain-free knee. I've been growing aware of that in recent weeks, but the point really was driven home to me today. First, there was the morning walk with Superdawg, during which the non-TKA (right) knee hurt with each step. Then we made a trip to the mall, and the pain grew sharper in the right knee. Of course, mall and hospital floors are probably the hardest surfaces for knees. But the TKA knee hurt not at all!

My Knee Owner's Manual (Brugioni and Falkel) tells me that it is common for many who have suffered arthritis in both knees to start thinking now (month four of recovery) about getting the other knee replaced: "Several months ago you probably swore you would never get the other knee replaced, but now the TKA knee is your good knee. Your daily activities now may be limited more by the non-operated knee than by the TKA knee."

A year ago, my orthopedist inspected both knees and did x-rays and offered the opinion that even though my left knee was in need of replacement, my right knee ought to be good for the duration. I did have laser surgery on it when we were living in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia and I suffered a meniscus tear on a steep slope.That was back in 2008. But it has been a hardy, sturdy knee and managed to escape the football damage that the left knee incurred way back in schoolboy days.

Now, I am just wondering if having to compensate and carry the load for the TKA knee has begun to catch up with ol' righty. I leaned on it for years in continuing to walk while my left knee barely functioned. And then after the TKA in April, I relied on righty to be able to get out of bed and get started toward the bathroom or physical therapy.

No, I am definitely not wanting another surgery to give me two TKA knees. I hope I haven't misled anyone on this blog to think that a total knee replacement is like a picnic in the park. The procedure does have a high success rate, but there are possibilities (as with any surgery) of complications. I spent an extra three days in the hospital to receive IV antibiotics to knock out a suspected infection. The docs have to monitor closely for blood clots and administer blood thinners if they detect one.

Right now, I am wondering if the right knee is just feeling the extra stress, part of which came from making a six-hour drive to North Carolina for a funeral recently. Or is it possible that the meniscus repair has come undone and needs a re-do? Even if the pain becomes chronic, I would go back (as I'm sure my orthopedist would recommend) and first try all the other conservative remedies, such as PT, nutritional supplements, medications, or joint injections -- with replacement being a last resort.

Tonight, the thought ocurred to me while doing my home PT -- and then I confirmed it in further reading of the manual -- that it is a good idea to begin now to do the prescribed PT exercises with both knees, not just the TKA one. That would help in making the non-TKA knee as strong as possible in the event I had to go through recovery and rehabilitation all over again. And maybe, just maybe, the exercise would relieve some of the soreness I am feeling and help fend off any knee replacement No. 2.

And as Annie sang, "The sun will come out tomorrow, tomorrow...."

© Robert G. Holland  2013


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