Out of the many factors that can determine whether a knee replacement surgery procedure will work, one of the most important issues is the timing of the operation. While other considerations also have an impact – such as age, weight, health, mobility and levels of pain – the stage of your life that you’re in when you have the op can be the most critical factor of all.
Why is this? Well, if you have a knee replacement too early, it can be a real psychological blow: you may feel that the new joint is a huge downgrade when compared to the knee you had before, and totally unsuitable for your day-to-day lifestyle.
But if you leave it too late, progressively worsening knee pain and lack of mobility can have a significant impact on quality of life. Furthermore, you may find the muscles around the knee area start to deteriorate or become deformed as they overcompensate, making the recovery period when you finally undergo surgery more challenging than it needs to be.
Put your joints to the test
A recent development announced by scientists at the Universities of Bristol and Sheffield may help practitioners and prospective patients get the timing right, thanks to an online test called the Patient Decision Support Tool for Joint Replacement – which could prove to be an absolute boon in the field of joint replacement.
At present, the current system in place offers patients general information about the risks and benefits of the procedure, but there’s absolutely nothing resembling a bespoke service when it comes to taking into account the wide range of factors that determine the need for a joint replacement.
This new test – which is based on data collected from more than a million UK patients that have had knee or hip replacement surgery – will predict how successful the new knee or hip will be, and whether the chances of pain can be reduced and day-to-day function will be improved.
The test – which will be taken online – will be plotted on a sliding scale from zero (where it is worse than before) to 48 (which will indicate a marked improvement).
Plan to succeed
But it doesn’t stop there. Other data that the Patient Decision Support Tool for Joint Replacement is aiming to provide includes an estimate of recovery time, the likelihood of a need for repeat surgery within a decade, and even the chances of dying in the 12 months after the procedure. Armed with this extra information, the research team surmises, patients will be able to make informed decisions about if and when to go ahead with a knee or hip replacement – or at least alter certain lifestyle choices well in advance.
While the test hasn’t been made available to the general public yet, I’m very keen to see what it’s all about – from a personal as well as a medical basis. While there is extremely little difference from one knee to another, it’s the extra circumstances – weight, body shape, age, lifestyle choices, etc – that can really come into play in a successful TKR procedure, and it would be very good to know what a test such as this will flag up.