Recovery after bilateral knee replacement

Arthritis is a condition, in which there is an inflammation of the joints. This is a condition that is able to affect either one joint of the body or multiple joints at the same time. This leads to pain and stiffness around the joints that are affected. When this occurs in more than one joint and affects the knees, it can lead to cartilage in the joint being worn away. This may lead to a necessity of a knee replacement surgery. This is usually done to replace the joints that are damaged and relieves the symptoms. 

During such a knee replacement surgery, the damaged areas are replaced with a prosthesis; an artificial knee. This type of prosthesis is made out of metal, plastic, and ceramic. This helps to restore the function of the damaged knee completely and it also relieves arthritis pain. A knee replacement surgery is recommended by medical professionals when the knee pain is stopping you from being able to proceed with your day to day activities. If the quality of your life is negatively affected and other therapy types haven’t been working, a knee replacement surgery might be the best option available. Usually, this is done in people who are over 60 years old. In younger people, it might not be as ideal, as when younger, there’s a big possibility that the artificial knees are worn out quickly and another surgery is again necessary.  

A double knee surgery comes with many risks; therefore, it is only recommended in certain cases. These cases would be patients who have overall good health, who are fit physically and who are able and motivated to go to physical therapy and rehabilitation after the surgery is done, as this is necessary for them to regain mobility.  


What types of bilateral knee replacements are there? 

A bilateral knee replacement surgery can be done in just one surgery, or it may involve two surgeries. If both knees need to be replaced at the same time, then this surgery Is known as a simultaneous bilateral knee replacement. If each knee is replaced separately, the surgery is known as a staged bilateral knee replacement.

A simultaneous bilateral knee procedure has an advantage that the patient only has to stay in the hospital once and when undergoing rehab, the same time period is required for healing both knees at the same time. This doesn’t mean that rehabilitation may be quicker, as, in fact, it may take even longer to fully recover because it will be a challenge to use both knees at the same time. After bilateral knee surgery, most people need assistance when they go back home and are recovering. A simultaneous bilateral knee replacement surgery also takes longer.

It is a surgery that lasts up to three to four hours, in comparison to the staged bilateral knee replacement, which only takes two hours. The longer surgery and the necessity of more anaesthesia, therefore, also leads to a greater risk of complications. It, therefore, isn’t a surgery that is recommended for people who have a lung disease or heart conditions. These are the so-called high-risk groups, which may possibly experience heart problems during the surgery or lose blood excessively. 

In a staged bilateral knee replacement, both knees are replaced, but separately. These surgeries are usually done a few months apart. Each of the surgeries, as previously mentioned will last around two hours. This approach allows one knee to recover before proceeding with the next surgery on the other knee.

The advantage of such a procedure is that there is not as high of a risk of complications, as in a simultaneous surgery. Also, with a staged bilateral knee replacement, the patient won’t need to stay in the hospital for as long. As this is a procedure that requires two surgeries, done months apart, the overall recovery can last long, which may stop patients from returning to certain activities for a longer period of time. 


What are the risks of a bilateral knee replacement? 

There are certain risks that can occur after a simultaneous but also staged bilateral knee replacement. These risks include the risk of infection, blood clots, a possible heart attack or stroke, nerve damage, a failure of the artificial joint and blood loss that may lead to the necessity for blood transfusion. Patients who are over 65 years old have an increased risk of having to deal with such complications during or after a bilateral knee replacement surgery. Also, statistics show that men are at a greater risk than women. 


Recovering from a bilateral knee replacement surgery

After such surgery, the patient is brought to a recovery room, where they usually spend a couple of hours. Afterward, you will be brought to the hospital room, where you will need to spend three to five days in case of a staged knee replacement, and up to 10 days in case of a double knee replacement. To ease the pain, the doctor will prescribe you pain-killers.

The hospital stay is necessary, as, during this time, the doctor will watch for signs of an infection, blood clots, and other complications. You will also be shown easy, low-intensity exercises which can get the healing of the knees going.  Physical therapy is sometimes started with as soon as a few hours after the surgery, as this will help you to get your normal knee movement quicker.

The physical therapy will in most cases last between six to 12 weeks, but it all depends on the individual progress and whether there are any other physical conditions. A physical therapy plan usually includes walking and exercises that are done to strengthen the knees and improve mobility. 

It is very important to strictly follow the instructions of your doctor and physical therapist, as this will help you make sure that you are able to quickly and fully recover from a bilateral knee replacement surgery. In most cases, overall recovery lasts up to 12 months, but this all depends on the individual overall health, as well as the age of the patient.

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