Young, Healthy Male with Bad Knees Seeks Pain-Free Lifestyle
How the Profile is Changing for the Candidate for Total Knee Replacement
Mention total knee joint replacement and many people envision a wobbly senior adult for whom surgery is a last resort for treatment. In recent years, that stereotype has changed. Take Steve Doyle for example. In his mid-50s, he’s relatively young and has been physically active his entire life. Yet overuse and a series of injuries through the years led to osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) in both of Steve’s knees. The condition resulted in restricted motion and intense pain that hampered his lifestyle. Recently, Steve made the decision to forego a future filled with decades of increasing suffering and a limited quality of life. In October 2013, he underwent bilateral total knee joint replacement at Abington Health’s Orthopaedic & Spine Institute (OSI) at Lansdale Hospital. Steve hasn’t had joint pain since the moment he awakened after surgery.
Steve’s degenerative joint disease began during his teen and young adult years, when he hammered his knees with a few sports-related injuries. He continued to pound both knees with years of coaching for his sons’ recreational sports teams. Over time, as the cartilage in his knees deteriorated, Steve adjusted to living with the pain of bone rubbing on bone. “I had gotten used to the constant pain,” he says. “It became all I knew.”
Steve had been undergoing treatment – both surgical and medical – since the early 1980s, including two operations, fluid drainage, and multiple steroid injections into the joints to help reduce swelling and inflammation. The pain persisted and slowly, Steve accepted it, changing the way he lived to accommodate it. “I couldn’t even carry a laundry basket down the stairs anymore,” he says.
When it got to that point, Steve’s wife, Maureen, insisted he didn’t need to wait to become completely incapacitated before exploring the option of knee replacement surgery. “Maureen actually scheduled the consultation with the orthopaedic surgeon at OSI for me,” recalls Steve. “I needed the push.”
“Steve fits the profile of today’s typical candidate for total knee replacement,” says Andrew M. Star, MD, medical director, OSI and chief of Orthopaedic Surgery, Abington Memorial Hospital. “Most are relatively young, big men who have been active until increasing pain from osteoarthritis changes their lives.” While it used to be that surgeons advised patients to postpone surgery until they could no longer stand the pain, today’s candidates have different options. Quality of life seems to be the determining factor for most. “Many patients don’t realize how much they have had to give up until they’ve recovered from surgery and are able to enjoy activities they had all but abandoned.” Dr. Star emphasizes, “The latest techniques in total knee replacement offer the potential for a successful result and a good experience.” At OSI, surgeons individualize the type, size, and shape of each implant based on the patient’s size, activity level, and age. Also contributing to an improved experience are impressive advances in effective pain management.
Knee replacement surgery
Steve was one of an increasing number of patients to overcome anxiety about pain to pursue surgery. “I had the operation on a Tuesday morning and the same afternoon the nurses had me swinging my knees over the side of the bed,” recalls the Lansdale resident. “I didn’t have joint pain anymore. Of course there’s recovery from the surgery, and rehabilitation isn’t pleasant, but it’s a different kind of pain and the OSI team did a great job helping me to manage it. I know it will lessen and eventually go away. The joint pain was there all the time. I never got relief.”
Prior to his surgery, if Steve had shot a particularly bad round of golf, he’d walk the greens to punish himself. “The next time I golf, I’ll be walking the greens and celebrating the fact that I can do it pain free,” he says.