Recently I met with my Princeton orthopedic surgeon and he recommended a total knee replacement. I left the appointment overwhelmed and with many unanswered questions that unfortunately I thought of afterwards. So I came home and searched the Internet and immediately found your wonderful commentary [a diary of Richard K. Rein’s knee replacement and subsequent recovery period that appeared in U.S. 1 on June 25, 2014].
Interestingly, my surgery will be scheduled for January, about two years after your surgery, so I followed your recovery timeline with particular interest. Many of my questions were answered in your article, particularly how my knee will be aligned during the surgery without having additional imaging tests. I do wish that your suggestion of alumni mentors was implemented but I am certain that now that I have committed to the surgery, that I will find others I can speak with.
The reason I am writing is that I would like to know how you are doing almost two years after the surgery. I hope that the surgery met your expectations and that you are well.
But since you publicly shared only six months of your recovery in your article, I hope you don’t mind if I ask you a few questions:
Have you regained a reasonable range of motion?
Are you able to sleep at night without too much discomfort?
Do you have still have any pain or fatigue in your leg?
Do you experience any limitations or difficulties that you didn’t expect prior to surgery?
Anything else you would care to share?
Thanks for asking, and I am happy to share. My guess is that most people feel overwhelmed when first presented with the overview of a major operation such as a knee replacement. More information will be presented as you get closer to the date of surgery. But anecdotal information and discussion with those who have been through the same process is also valuable, as I point out in the accompanying column.
In answer to your questions:
Yes, I have regained a reasonable range of motion, even though — as predicted — the expensive new knee does not have quite as much range of motion as the one my parents gave me for free back in the late 1940s.
Yes, I can sleep with no discomfort, and I have only occasional tenderness — I wouldn’t call it pain — and no fatigue in my leg. Once in a while my knee gets stiff if I sit in the same position for a long time. But that’s probably true for some of my other joints, as well, but I don’t pay as much attention to them. And, no, I have not experienced any limitations or difficulties since the surgery.
As for anything else to share: my impression, gained from anecdotal evidence only, is that outcomes vary according to individual circumstances. Age, weight, strength, and level of physical activity before the replacement probably are factors that influence the speed of recovery and the extent to which a person resumes “full function.” So take any of my advice here with an appropriate grain of salt.
For me I quickly came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t do anything after the replacement that I didn’t do before. I could probably start jogging now, but I haven’t jogged in probably 30 years. I won’t start now. I did have a daily routine of power walking (five miles per hour) up until a few years before the replacement. I have resumed that, but I have lowered my definition of what’s fast — I am now happy with anything over four miles per hour. I figure that speed causes less of a pounding on either knee. I’m guessing that the aging process doesn’t care if you have a new knee or not.
Good luck with your operation and with the all-important rehabilitation process afterward.