Blog #1: She’s one of the most widely read healthcare writers in the world. That’s why I feel compelled to address some of the information presented in two columns–spaced a year apart–published by Jane E. Brody in the New York Times. Both articles discuss in detail the repercussions from Brody’s bilateral knee replacement in 2004. Brody concludes she’s glad she had the surgery, but details a fairly lengthy and painful recovery period.
As an orthopedic surgeon who has performed literally hundreds of joint replacements I believe Brody’s experiences are atypical. True, the majority of patients who undergo knee replacement surgery do report pain, particularly within the first few weeks. But typically the pain is very well managed with oral medication.
Most of my patients leave their hospital beds–and walk around their rooms–the day after surgery. In the days following most gain rapidly not only in their range of motion but in their ability to move freely. And on the third day, most of my patients are usually discharged from the hospital, taking with them a combination of short- and long-acting pain medication as well as oral anti-inflammatories.
I need to stress here that following physical therapy guidelines plays a key role in recovering smoothly. Patients who attend these sessions two or three times a week can generally begin driving again in one month. This is also the amount of time it takes most people to graduate from a pair of crutches to a cane, and then to no assistive device at all.
As my mother used to say, “we all have pain, but we don’t all suffer.” Patients’ response to surgery differs, of course. But I’d have to characterize Brody’s example as extreme. It shouldn’t prevent anyone from having a knee replacement.