Did your doctor tell you that you need bilateral knee replacement surgery? It sounds scary, but you should know what to expect before your operation.
What's scarier than hearing that you need to get one knee replacement surgery? Finding out that you need both knees replaced.
You have two options for how to proceed. You can get one surgery at a time or you can get them both done at once.
How do you decide which one is right for you?
As with any kind of serious operation, there are pros and cons for both. You should be aware of what they are and what both recoveries will entail.
That way, you can have an informed discussion with your doctor about what you want to do. If they don't agree with your stance, you can get a second opinion, and then make a decision.
Going under the knife should never be taken lightly.
If you're thinking about having a bilateral knee replacement, you should know all the facts. Read on for a complete guide for what to expect.
Staged Knee Replacement
A staged knee replacement means you'll have two separate surgeries. After the first surgery, you'll go home to rest and recover. The next surgery will come a few months later.
You and your doctor will decide on the best waiting time between surgeries. If getting the other knee replaced isn't urgent, you can wait longer. You can spend more time in physical therapy getting the new knee strong.
Then, the process repeats. Though you're now fully aware of what to expect, the next time around isn't necessarily easier.
It can be mentally taxing to just start feeling like yourself again, only to have to go back to square one.
Physically, your mobility is likely to be even more limited the second time around. Your standing knee will still be in recovery. Meaning, it will be more uncomfortable to shift all of your weight onto that leg to stand or walk on crutches.
These are reasons why some people elect to get both knees replaced simultaneously.
Simultaneous Knee Replacement
Getting both knees replaced is an attractive option if you want to get the ordeal over with quickly. You don't have to dread spending the better part of a year in recovery and on crutches. It's understandable that you don't want to put your life on hold for that long.
However, the recovery of a simultaneous surgery poses its own issues.
When you get home, you'll need much more help from loved ones to recover. You won't have a standing leg to hobble around the house on your own. Simple tasks like getting to the bathroom and showering will be a lot harder.
As with any type of procedure, both the simultaneous and staged surgeries include some risk.
Any time you go under general anesthesia you take a risk. Both simultaneous and staged surgeries can result in complications.
A staged surgery will have you on the operating table for about two hours. Having both knees done will mean a longer surgery. The longer you're under anesthesia, the greater your risk of something going wrong.
A simultaneous replacement is twice the trauma on your body. Because of this, there's a bigger possibility of having a cardiac issue after you're out of surgery.
However, unless you already have major cardiac problem, the possibility of complications is rare. If you're a good candidate for simultaneous surgeries, it can change your life for the better.
The Best Candidates for Simultaneous Surgeries
One consideration for whether this surgery is right for you is what kind of support you have. The recovery process will be difficult, and you'll need help with very basic tasks.
If you don't have a reliable caretaker, this isn't the right choice.
The best candidates for simultaneous surgeries are those who aren't in great physical shape. Getting both surgeries done at once will get you back on your feet quicker than going through two surgeries.
Plus, if you're disabled already, the lack of mobility during recovery won't be jarring for you.
But, no matter which surgery you choose, you'll have to go through similar recovery periods.
The Initial Recovery
After surgery, you'll wake up in the recovery room for a few hours. While you shake off the anesthesia, the nurses will monitor you.
Then, you'll be moved to a hospital room. If you've only had one knee replaced, you can expect to stay overnight for 2-3 days. For both knees, your stay can be up to 10 days.
Doctor's and nurses will continue to monitor you for blood clots and infections. They will also do their best to manage your knee pain levels. When you're released to go home, that's when the long journey towards healing begins.
Longterm Healing and Physical Therapy
Within 6 weeks of getting home, it will be time to begin physical therapy.
An additional benefit of simultaneous surgeries? Your insurance is likely to cover in-home, intensive physical therapy. This will speed your recovery and get you on your feet a lot faster than the alternative.
Whether you travel to weekly, in-office sessions or stay in-home, you'll start off with minor stretches and exercises. This will help you slowly regain mobility and strength in your knees. As you you progress, the exercises will become more difficult.
Whether you've had one knee or both replaced, it's important to keep up with your physical therapy. But, don't over do it, either! Doing your exercises more than prescribed can result in injury.
Following your doctor's and therapist's instructions to the letter will give you the best chance at a speedy recovery.
Bilateral Knee Replacement: The Takeaway
Any surgery that will impede your mobility will make for a tough recovery. Only you can decide which bilateral knee replacement surgery is right for your lifestyle. Either way, once the surgery and recovery is over, you'll have a new lease on life!