If you have reached the point with arthritis where it becomes necessary to have both knees replaced, you may be contemplating the pros and cons of having both knees replaced simultaneously. Although the final choice is a personal decision, there are different factors you need to consider before making your choice.
Your decision may rest on the affordability of the surgery. The overall cost of surgery may be less if both knees are replaced at the same time. Expenses for a double knee replacement, such as in-patient care, operating room costs and anesthesia, can be less than the cost of two separate surgeries combined. If you have insurance with a high deductible, you may lean toward a double knee replacement, especially if the next surgery would occur under a new coverage year.
Once your deductible is met for the year, it is much more affordable to have a double knee replacement when more of the costs are covered by your insurance. At minimum, if you opt for individual surgeries, you may want to have them done within the same coverage year, if cost is your primary concern.
One of the major benefits and lures of having both knees replaced during one surgery is a shortened recovery period. If you are currently employed, you may feel obligated to choose a single six or more week recovery, rather than two separate occasions. For many people, staying out of work twice may not be an option, due to the income loss or the inability to take a leave of absence. If you are the primary caregiver in your household, the shorter overall recovery period may be less impactful to your family obligations.
Although a shorter overall recovery time is a benefit, the downside is that your recovery will be more intense. If you choose a single knee replacement, you should have the worse knee repaired first, so you can depend on the less damaged knee to get through physical therapy and daily activities. Ask your orthopedic doctor about treatment options that can be effective for the less damaged knee.
For example, injections made from rooster combs might prolong an additional knee replacement while reducing pain. Unlike steroid injections that only reduce inflammation, the injections help lubricate the joint, which can minimize additional wear and tear on your knee while reducing pain. Some people are able to hold off on a knee replacement for several years with injections.
If you are going to consider having both knees replaced at the same time, it may be unwise to do so if you are not otherwise healthy. Without complications, surgery itself can be taxing and traumatic to your body. You want to give yourself the best opportunity to heal appropriately and promptly, which might mean that you should delay your second knee replacement until you are fully healed from the first surgery. If your original decision to have both knees replaced together is due to time constraints, you must factor in the possibility of complications, which are more likely with an extended surgery.
Whether you choose a single or double knee replacement may depend on your living situation and who can help you. There are limitations to what you can do after surgery. With both knees replaced, you will need more help for basic tasks. Without many friends and family to help, or the ability to afford around the clock nursing care or entry into a rehabilitation center, you may not have adequate help to handle having both knees replaced simultaneously.
Better outcomes and lower infections risks from knee replacements have made it possible for some patients to successfully have both knees replaced simultaneously. If a double knee replacement surgery is an option, the best decision depends on your current health and your access to help during the recovery.
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