Risks of Putting Off Knee Replacement Surgery

Making the decision to have knee surgery is not always an easy one. There are many different factors to consider in order to determine if knee surgery is right for you. One such factor is the timing. While there may be no ideal time to have knee surgery, it is important to understand that putting off knee surgery can potentially affect the end results. Just as having knee surgery carries its own set of risks, there are also risks associated with putting off knee surgery. These risks include: 

Joint Deformity Progression

One of the most common reasons for a knee replacement is osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, osteoarthritis is a progressive condition that will continue to deform the joint until it is replaced. This will not only increase your pain levels, but it may also cause subsequent deformities in the surrounding structures. For example, you may become knock-kneed or bow-legged. Although the joint itself will be replaced during surgery, increased joint deformity can make your surgery more extensive. 

Lack of Joint Motion

Another unfortunate effect of osteoarthritis progression is that joint stiffness increases, which decreases the joint’s ability to move properly. However, this stiffness does not only affect the joint. In fact, the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and joint capsule are likely to become contracted and stiff as well. Not only does this make motion more difficult before surgery, but it can also inhibit motion after surgery, which can have a negative effect on your recovery process. 

Pain from Compensation

As a result of having limited function in one joint, your body may try to compensate by placing additional strain on your other knee joint. While the significance of this effect is debated in the medical world, patients have reported suffering pain in the opposite knee that is believed to be caused by absorbing excess strain due to favoring the hurt joint. 

Development of Medical Conditions

Although this is not directly related to your knee, choosing to wait too long to have knee surgery increases the risk of developing medical conditions that can affect your candidacy for knee surgery. This is especially true in older individuals who have decreased their physical activity due to knee pain. Gaining weight, losing endurance, or developing cardiac or pulmonary conditions can all potentially affect your ability to have knee surgery. 

When is the right time to have knee surgery?

While you definitely shouldn’t rush into having knee surgery, most professionals recommend having knee replacement surgery sooner rather than later. One reason for this is that having knee surgery while you are still able to be somewhat active allows for an easier recovery. Waiting until you have little to no function or mobility has been shown to decrease the amount of function and mobility that are restored following surgery. Not to mention that muscle mass also declines with age, which can also make recovering more difficult. 

Having knee replacement surgery sooner rather than later also allows you to have more pain-free years. While the thought of surgery and a recovery period may seem daunting, having your knee replaced sooner shortens your recovery time as opposed to waiting. With that being said, putting it off for a few months usually does not cause too many complications. However, this does vary based on your individual case, so be sure to discuss this with your surgeon to determine the best course of action. 

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