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Are Knee Replacements the Cure-All They Claim to Be?

Are Knee Replacements the Cure-All They Claim to Be?
January 04
22:20 2019

I first injured my knees while bull riding in my later teens. I made one of the best rides of my short 3 ½ year career of bull riding and saddle bronc. I swung my leg over the bull and dismounted after hearing the buzzer. I knew I had a really high scoring ride and that led me to do a really dumb thing. I landed with my back to the bull, grabbed my hat and flung it in the air in celebration. Just about the time the hat left my hand, the bull had spun around and kicked, striking me in the side of my right knee with it’s hind hoof. I felt things tear as I crumpled to the dirt. It took 2 other cowboys to help me get out of the arena. This was back in the mid-1960s, long before paramedics and the safety gear you see on cowboys today.

A doctor just happened to be at the rodeo that day and after examining my knee, he told me I needed to go to the hospital. I refused and had him just tape and wrap my knee as best he could because I intended to ride again that night, the next day and then I had an 8-hour drive home before attending classes on Monday. Turns out I had partial tears of the ACL and MCL in my knee, but I refused to have it surgically repaired.

That was the start of my knee problems as I’ve other partial tears of both ligaments in both knees over the years.  In 1975, one of the top orthopedic doctors in the state told me that I needed both knees replaced. At the time, the average knee replacement lasted about 10-12 years max and then it would need to be redone. Each time it is redone, I was told that it cut the duration of the replacement by about half.

A friend went through that after having three replacements, he ended up with a steel rod in his leg and no knee and no way to get dressed or drive or do many things. He ended up having his leg amputated above where his knee once was and was fitted with a prosthetic leg, that allowed him to dress, ride a bicycle, drive a car and play basketball.

Over the years, I’ve known quite a few people who have knees replaced. About half of them say it was the best decision they made and the other half say that it was the beginning of a long nightmare. They say that the pain never went away and they still found it very difficult to walk or move around without having intense pain.

Over the years, knee surgery has improved, but at 67, I’m still not convinced it’s the best thing to do. Besides, I was told many years ago that my knees were so bad that there is no way I could stand or walk for 8 hours a day on a job. Guess what, I spent 11 years as an electrical meter reader where I walked an average of 12-15 miles a day. As long as I can continue to do what the doctors tell me I can’t, I won’t have a knee replacement.

I have a former co-worker that lives near me who had knee replacements done a few years ago. Today, she still lives with knee pain and rarely leaves the house, except to go to church or visit her kids and grandkids, but mostly they come to her.

But what about you or anyone else? Has the technology improved enough for you to undergo such an operation?

Take Danette Lake’s case. In her 40’s and after losing 200 pounds, she encountered a home intruder who sexually assaulted her. She fought the attacker off, but in the process, she injured her knees. She worked as a baggage handler at an airport and the knee pain was excruciating. Her doctor told her that a knee replacement would reduce her pain, largely due to arthritis which has set in, by 75%. She was elated and had the replacement done on one knee.

A year later, the pain is still so severe, that she is unable to work and often unable to sleep.

According to the same report that reveals Lakes ordeal, it states:

“Most knee replacements are considered successful, and the procedure is known for being safe and cost-effective. Rates of the surgery doubled from 1999 to 2008, with 3.5 million procedures a year expected by 2030.”

“But Lake’s ordeal illustrates the surgery’s risks and limitations. Doctors are increasingly concerned that the procedure is overused and that its benefits have been oversold.”

“Research suggests that up to one-third of those who have knees replaced continue to experience chronic pain, while 1 in 5 are dissatisfied with the results. A study published last year in the BMJ found that knee replacement had ‘minimal effects on quality of life,’ especially for patients with less severe arthritis.”

If you or someone you know is contemplating a knee replacement, take time to do some research and then ask yourself how much of a gambler you are? Once they cut the bones and remove your knee joint, you can’t get it back. Look at the report above and ask yourself is it worth the risk. For some it is, but for others, like myself, not yet.

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HLA Staff

HLA Staff

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