As anyone with chronic knee pain knows, dealing with the associated ongoing discomfort and mobility issues can have a big negative effect on your quality of life. Favorite hobbies and sports can become difficult to enjoy. Basic daily activities can become painful ordeals. In cases of knee pain caused by joint damage, one option that many patients are exploring is outpatient knee replacement surgery.
Thanks to the continued development of surgical protocols, it is possible for orthopedic surgeons to perform both partial and total knee replacement surgeries without the need for overnight hospitalization. This means a procedure where you can be up and walking within hours and return home the same day as the operation. Outpatient knee replacement is the best option for almost every healthy patient.
At Outpatient Joint Replacement Center of America (OJRCA), we’re committed to helping educate patients so you can work with your surgeon to make an informed decision. If you are exploring the possibility of outpatient knee replacement surgery and want to know if you may be a candidate, here are six common indicators.
1. You Have Severe Joint Damage in the Knee
There are many specific types of knee surgeries, from soft tissue repair procedures to operations to set a fracture in and around the knee. Partial or total knee replacements are surgeries that involve removing damaged joint surfaces and replacing them with a new smooth joint surface. The goal is to improve function in the knee and relieve pain caused by the excessive friction from the arthritis.
The primary cause of chronic knee damage is osteoarthritis, or wear-and-tear arthritis. Over time protective cartilage wears down, causing bone-on-bone contact when you move your knee. This results in inflammation, abnormal bone growth called “spurs,” and knee deformity that only progresses over time.
Other conditions that cause severe joint damage in the knee include rheumatoid arthritis and injuries that cause joint wear due to post-traumatic arthritis.
2. Pain and Debilitating Symptoms are Negatively Affecting Your Life
The presence of joint damage alone does not automatically mean you will need knee replacement surgery. Osteoarthritis is extremely common, and many people have joint degeneration while only experiencing minor symptoms. Knee replacement surgery is typically an elective procedure for patients looking to improve quality of life.
People with severe joint damage that may require surgery often deal with the following problems:
- Persistent aches, pains and stiffness
- Difficulty walking, climbing stairs, sitting down and standing up
- Disrupted sleep due to pain and inability
- Diminished productivity at work or home
- Increased isolation and a sedentary lifestyle
3. You Have Fully Explored Physical Therapy, Injections and Other Conservative Treatments
Occasionally, people with severe symptoms caused by knee joint damage can “put off” joint replacement. Often, conservative treatment options can be very effective in managing symptoms. Although degenerative joint damage can not be cured or reversed with modern medicine, there are many ways to relieve symptoms and improve knee function especially in the earlier stages of the disease.
One of the best methods is physical therapy. A professional therapist can help patients strengthen the muscles around the knee while also addressing postural and mechanical issues that may be adding to stress on the knee. Additionally, through manual therapies, a physical therapist can help mobilize the joint and allow for strengthening exercises to support the arthritic joint.
Another common conservative option are corticosteroid injections. By injecting a powerful anti-inflammatory into the knee joint, physicians can help patients experiencing relief on an intermediate basis, often for months at a time. This is often combined with a course of physical therapy that may not have been possible to complete otherwise.
Lubricating injections called viscosupplementation, can help as well in the early to mid stages of the arthritis progression. Several types of lubricant are available and different types are covered by different insurance carriers. Sometimes these injections are not covered at all by your insurance.
Lastly, amniotic fluid injections have been covered by a handful of insurances. This is the most repairative approach to arthritis management, supplying numerous growth factors to the knee in the hopes of restoring function.
4. You Have Addressed Lifestyle Factors that Contribute to Knee Pain
Another way that patients manage long-term chronic joint pain is through adopting a healthy lifestyle that promotes knee health and reduces stress and inflammation throughout the body. Doctors often recommend people with chronic knee pain explore the following steps:
- Getting regular, non impact exercise to strengthen muscles and soft tissue while improving cardiovascular health and blood flow
- Eating a healthy diet that is rich in nutrients and anti-inflammatory foods
- Start a weight management program if needed, which can help reduce the weight we put on the knees with every step
- Avoid tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption, as both can increase joint inflammation and reduce blood flow
If weeks or months of conservative treatment and committing to a healthy lifestyle do not bring the relief necessary for a good quality of life, your doctor may refer you to consult with a surgeon to explore outpatient knee replacement surgery.
5. You Do Not Have a Medical Condition or Other Concern that Requires Surgery in a Hospital
While there is often not an age restriction for outpatient knee surgery, patients do require a full health evaluation to determine if there are medical conditions that would preclude outpatient surgeries. For example, those with severe or poorly controlled cardiovascular conditions, may require hospitalization after knee replacement to monitor for potential complications.
Fortunately, even if you do require inpatient knee replacement, you can often still benefit from the advancements in anesthesia protocols and pre- and postoperative care that allow for a streamlined recovery process.
6. You Have Found the Right Surgeon and Practice
Undergoing outpatient knee replacement surgery is a big decision, and it is essential to find a surgeon you can trust and a facility that makes you feel at ease. At OJRCA, Dr. Phillip Clifford and his entire team are devoted to making sure everyone seeking relief gets treated like family. We believe in patient-centered, individualized care that ensures each person fully understands their options and can make a confident care decision that fits their long-term goals.
If you’d like to learn more about the possibility of outpatient knee replacement surgery that can get you back to the people and activities you love, contact us today. We’ll tell you how to find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our state-of-the-art procedures.