Thinking Twice about Knee Replacement SurgeryHere's good news if you're someone who likes to get things over with quickly. Total knee replacements can be done two-at-a-time. It's called bilateral total knee arthroplasty. Instead of having one knee replaced at a time, you can do them both at once.
The up side is that there's only one operation. This means less time under anesthesia and less total time in the hospital. In fact, fewer wound infections and less physical therapy are added plusses. There can be some problems with bilateral knee arthroplasty, however. Blood loss, early death, and increased confusion after the operation have been reported.
Researchers at the Center for Hip and Knee Surgery at St. Francis Hospital in Indiana report on the use of bilateral knee arthroplasty. They compared the results of surgery for three groups: (1) single knee replacements, (2) both knees done one at a time, and (3) both knees done at the same time.
A total of 6,200 total knee replacements were done at this hospital over a 17-year period. More than 2,000 patients had both knee joints replaced at the same time. The doctors found a higher rate of blood clots in this group compared to the group having single arthroplasties. Yet the authors of this study report that bilateral total knee arthroplasty is safe and effective. Problems such as increased skin infections and blood clots can be managed. No difference was found among the three groups for implant failure, heart problems, or death rate.
So if youâre in good health but a lot of pain, you might want to take the plunge and get both knees replaced at the same time. Your doctor will know if you are a good candidate for this method.
Merrill A. Ritter, MD, et al. Simultaneous Bilateral, Staged Bilateral, and Unilateral Total Knee Arthroplasty. In The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. August 2003. Vol. 85-A. No. 8. Pp. 1532-1537.
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