Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Contemplating a TKR? Here's my advice ...

Do I have any advice for someone contemplating a TKR? Of course I do.
One, take the pain medications that are available. Don’t be a tough guy. Recovery and rehab are going to be painful. Use the tools that are available to you to control the pain.

Two, prepare yourself mentally and physically for surgery and rehab. If you can delay surgery for a month or two, put the time into strengthening your arms, torso, and legs. You will need this strength during recovery and rehab. Your recovery is likely to go faster if you do.

Three, work hard at rehab. Physical therapy needs to be done at least once a day, whether facilitated by a therapist or at home, on your own. Every day that you work at rehab, there will be incremental progress. Conversely, every day that you don’t work at rehab, there will be incremental decline.

Four, don’t quit. There will be performance plateaus during rehab. Look for them, and work with your therapist to break through those plateaus. Full rehabilitation may take up to 18 months or longer. Be patient. Be persistent.

Five, ask questions. Your doctors and nurses have knowledge and experience you lack. If you don’t ask, they won’t know to tell you. Think about how many patients they see in a week. Asking questions of your healthcare team is YOUR responsibility.

Six, look for problems. Unexpected pain? Unexpected swelling? Unexpected brusing? Call the surgeon immediately. There is no reason to wait, or to worry. Make the call. Your surgeon’s staff is trained to answer your questions, and to know when to put you through to the surgeon.

Finally, you should realize that the first 2 weeks are going to be the most painful, and that the first 6 weeks will require the hardest work in rehab/PT. However, by 12 weeks, you should expect to be walking comfortably, sleeping comfortably, and asking yourself “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”