“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Although Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, wasn’t specifically talking about knee or hip replacement surgery, it seems this sentiment is very apt. A new study has revealed that as many as nine in ten of us who suffer from osteoarthritis in our knees ignore the problem for much longer than we should.
The report, published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, looked at the knees of almost three and a half thousand patients, almost a third of which went on to have knee joint replacement surgery in the research time period. Over double that number (over 2,800) opted not to have knee surgery, despite researchers believing they were medically eligible for it.
Joint replacement timing
The report warns that joint replacement timing, and leaving it too long specifically, can negatively impact how effective the surgery will be. The longer you leave it, the greater the risk that there may be complications of elements of the surgery that would simply have left you with a better quality of life if they had been done earlier. The report authors explain that there are a wide variety of implications that can occur for putting your head in the sand and ignoring the need for joint surgery. These include:
- Greater risk of complications with surgery
- Higher likelihood of needing revision surgery further down the line
- Potential issues with the effectiveness of revision surgery
- Reduced mobility compared with those who opted for surgery earlier
- Other health problems caused by the lack of mobility in the joints, such as weight gain, depression, etc.
Hassan Ghomrawi, an associate professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine is one of the lead investigators on this research, and he explains: “When people wait too long, two things happen… The osteoarthritis causes deterioration of their function. Some of them wouldn’t be able to straighten out their legs, affecting their walking and mobility. When you can’t get exercise, you can start to develop other health problems such as cardiovascular problems. You may also become depressed. The overall impact can be huge.”
Taking steps to address the issue
Medical professionals believe that there is an educational role here to help patients understand the impactions of delaying surgery. With a greater understanding of how delaying surgery could impact on them and their lives in the future, there may hopefully be a positive shift towards fewer patients waiting until it is too late.
Although there is probably never a ‘convenient’ time to choose to have major surgery such as this, understanding the implications of delaying is critical to ensuring that you’re not doing lasting damage to troubled, failing joints.