Posted by: chlost | March 23, 2012

Iro(knee)

Arthritis is supposed to be for old folks. Unfortunately, it runs in my family. I have struggled with arthritis for the past several years. The worst of it is my knees.

My left knee has now lost some function-it doesn’t straighten completely, so I have a pronounced limp. I feel at least ten years older than my true age due to this.

Despite my attempts to lessen the pain and inflammation by gulping down massive amounts of ibuprofen, receiving shots of cortisone and rooster combs, my knee only gets worse. It has come to the point that I am nearly ready to *gulp!* have surgery. A knee replacement is really the only next step available to me.

Image via Wikipedia
X-ray view of knee replacement A little hardware attached to the ends of the bones.

I have put this off for the past few years, hoping to avoid or delay this. But earlier this week I finally went to an orthopedic surgeon.

He told me that I am too young to have the surgery. He said that I should try to wait until I am at least 60 if at all possible.

I was stunned. I feel old, but I am too young to do anything about it? I need to go for several (I’m not saying exactly how many!) years with pain and a limp before doing anything else? Doesn’t it count that I feel like my body is over 60?

My sister (a physical therapist) assured me that I don’t have to wait. She told me that she has seen many successful knee replacements in folks even younger than me. She also thought it made no sense to suffer until I am 60, by then the surgery will likely be even more difficult and recovery more limited.

So, I am going to get another opinion. I don’t like the idea that I may be doctor shopping, but I just don’t feel as though I received good advice. This doctor is part of a large orthopedic practice, but I got the impression that he was a bit disdainful of someone coming in for informational purposes. Who knows? Maybe he was just cranky.

My biggest struggle is in figuring out how to find a good surgeon. I am a bit of a snob….I do research and don’t respect the credentials of some of the doctors who have been recommended to me by others.  I can’t believe that I am trying so hard to find someone to cut off the ends of my bones before putting me back together to face 6-8 weeks of difficult recovery. Not to mention a beautiful scar.

Image via Wikipedia

That could only be described as Irony.

We’ll see where it goes from here.

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Responses

  1. *hugs* Honey, you do what you need to in order to feel better. My dad’s mom had both knees replaced due to severe RA. It made a huge difference in her life! Granted she was a bit older than you are, but it isn’t the age that matters, it truly is how you feel.

    And I see nothing wrong with “doctor shopping”. When hubby got to the point of wanting his surgery there were conditions I gave to go along with the plan … he had to have it done at Cedars Sinai, and I got a say in the doc who did the surgery. I will not deal with surgeons who have only been trained in the US because they have an unhealthy view of what a patient is. I was very pleased that the surgeon he wanted to go with 1) was trained by the guy who developed the surgery, 2) was a senior surgeon at Cedars, and 3) was trained in Amsterdam and at the Mayo Clinic before working at Cedars. He fit the bill perfectly and we lucked out … if necessary, I would have insisted on going out of state.

    You need a doc that will be honest with you, and who understands that it’s your body and you don’t have to accept their opinion. Did you know that there is actually a class in med schools (called “Bedside Manner” ironically) that teaches docs to be how to bully patients? I was flabbergasted to hear that, but after thinking about it, it doesn’t surprise me. Anyway, keep looking until you find a doc you are comfortable with who gets that you have the right to ignore him and all will work out. 😉

    • Thanks dragonfae. I will keep looking. I finally have made up my mind that this has to be done, and I will find the right person to get me through it. So far, the most enthusiastic referral that I received was for a D.O. I am sorry, but I don’t feel comfortable with that. So the search/research continues.

      • A DO for surgery? That’s pretty odd. I actually prefer DOs to MDs as they tend to have a more holistic view of their patients and see a DO as my PCP but she doesn’t do surgeries.

      • Yes, the DO as a surgeon freaked me out.

  2. Stick to your guns. Doctors and surgeons are simply YOUR highly-paid employees. As such, you have the right to query them as much as you need to. It is YOUR knee – not theirs!
    A friend of mine (under 60 at the time) had both of hers done. Recovered MUCH fast than those who put it off for years.
    You will overcome.

    • Yes, I will definitely overcome…..I have become more determined to go ahead with this. And it seems only logical that it should not wait until it is beyond endurance to have it done.

  3. I agree that waiting too long can hurt recovery. Keep shopping doctors. I always thought if it affected your life style, it was time.
    Hope you get relief soon. When you do get it, be extremely faithful to the rehab. You need good muscles to help support the new knee.

    • Thank you for the encouragement, Patti. I have also heard and my sister has pounded it into me that the PT is the most important part of the whole procedure.

  4. If you’re having trouble walking, you have to do something. Also, it seems you might be putting strain on other parts of your body by limping. Hope you find a doctor soon.

    • Yes, my sister has been worried about my hips and back being hurt by my weakness in the one knee. That is all I would need. My mom had a hip replacement first (then a knee and two shoulders) so my joints are at risk in any event.

  5. My father in law has had both knees replaced and it has been a remarkable improvement. He was in a lot of pain and was getting so he could not walk. Yes, the recovery time is lengthy, but really, what is the alternative? They aren’t going to get better.

    • I like that term “remarkable improvement”! This is definitely a downhill ride until the surgery is done.

  6. I think the reason some surgeons recommend waiting is that artificial joints have a limited lifespan. Still, it’s a quality of life issue and if you end up having to have it re-replaced at some point but significantly increase your mobility and decrease your pain, it might be worth it to you. I got a second opinion when the first surgeon, who had a great reputation, was an asshole in the consult. I’ve never regretted finding someone else I liked and trusted.

    • But most of the lifespan has been seen with folks who are in their 70’s when they get the replacements…so how do they know how well they will hold up in the long term? And you are right. I think that 5 or 6 years of better mobility when I am younger makes so much more sense than suffering more now in order to have that time at the other end of the replacement.
      And why is it that surgeons with good reputations so often seem to have horrible people skills?

  7. Run (if you can), don’t walk and find a new orthopedist. I had a knee replacement last year at 56 and I kick myself (and now I can!) that I waited this long. I have had very bad knee problems for at least 12 years, had arthroscopic surgery 7 years ago, which did nothing due to the advanced arthritis. It will be a year on 4/15 and I want to write my ortho a love letter. More days than not, I never even think about the fact that I have a knee replacement. It is the best thing I ever did. I hope you find the right doctor and eliminate the pain and weariness. I do everything now and enjoy life.

    • Yes, I remember reading about your surgery and recovery on your blog. I am so happy that it went well for you. I will keep at this.

  8. I think it’s always a good idea to listen to yourself and advocate for yourself. In this case, I hope you listen to me. I think there is one more thing you can try. It’s remarkably simple. Pick up a copy of Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method To Stop Chronic Pain by Pete Egoscue–it will set you back about ten bucks–and carefully do the menu of knee exercises he recommends, to the letter. Give it three weeks. I’ll bet you notice the difference after a couple days. These are not the exercises your PT gives you, usually. But they are amazingly effective, if you do them precisely as directed, and results are clear and fast. I personally got rid of chronic pain in lower back and knees, and with a little more time–a few months–I eliminated neck pain I’d had for forty years, and that both doctors and chiropractors told me I’d have forever. (And yes, they said I had arthritis.) Let’s put it this way: even if you feel you need to have surgery, the underlying condition is mechanical, and if you don’t get it straightened out, you’ll just have to have the surgery again in ten years. Try the book.

    • Okay, I will look for that. I am hoping to have the surgery sometime this fall, the exercise stuff might make things more bearable until then. Thanks!


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