risks of delaying knee surgery

There comes a certain point in your life where you face that dreaded word: Surgery. It’s frightening. But not as frightening as the risks of delaying knee surgery.

The years spent enjoying your favorite tasks like gardening, playing sports, and just moving easily through your everyday tasks have long-term term impacts on your joints.  A particularly sensitive area is the knees.

When you walk your knees absorb the pressure from your body weight – and then a little more. This means that they are susceptible to weakening cartilage much sooner than some other joints.

Knee pain can be debilitating

Many patients try to avoid flare ups by reducing their motion in daily activities, and can become sedentary.  This can be a cause for serious dissatisfaction and can lead to a reduced enjoyment of life. These are all very good reasons to see an orthopedic surgeon and schedule a surgery – Yet commonly people who are experiencing extreme knee pain will avoid or delay surgery. 

So why do people do this, and why does it really matter? 

Dr. Ian Clark, one of the founders of Peterson Tribology Laboratory for joint replacement at Loma Linda University and a medical researcher, writes, “Most patients delay unnecessarily for several perceptual reasons: fear of the unknown, fear of surgery, fear of ‘losing’ a body part, fear of the post-op surgery pain, fear that they will end up worse than they started.”

While these fears are valid, allowing them to postpone a necessary procedure can be a serious mistake.  The most common risks of delaying knee surgery include:

  • An increase of pain levels and difficulty managing them
  • Decreased motion and movement 
  • Finding it difficult to perform regular daily activities
  • Possible risk of deformed/dysfunctional joint growth inside or out of the joint
  • Surrounding muscles/joints/ligaments become weak when overcompensating for others

Beyond these risks, if you wait too long to schedule a knee replacement surgery, it may make the surgery more complicated.

The procedure itself usually will require more time because of the extra damage inflicted on the area, which means patients will be under anesthesia for longer.  It also has the potential to reduce what type of surgeries are available. If you catch joint damage early on and opt for treatment, you will usually undergo what is known as  a ¨Partial Knee Replacement¨ or a ¨Resurfacing¨ in which you will only have the affected areas replaced. However, if the damage is left to deteriorate further, this usually negates that option and will require a total knee replacement– and add the possibility of a surgery on the knee cap as well. 

With all of these avoidable risks in mind, why delay? Most patients are relieved after the surgery itself, and have a new pep in their step with the return to normal motion. If you experience knee pain, contact us to see if you are a candidate for knee surgery and to discuss all of your options for managing your knee pain. You deserve relief, so don’t delay.