I’m sure you’ve seen commercials with elderly and middle aged people doing all sorts of crazy things. The more you watch, the more you realize that this is an ad for a knee replacement device. Even the names of these things speak to the wonderful active life you’ll have – how about the “Get Around Knee”? However, if we instill a little science into the hype, what is the real knee replacement activity level after these procedures? Turns out, very, very few patients get back to a healthy active lifestyle.
Most patients believe that getting a joint replaced is as easy as getting a part replaced in their car. However, these are very big surgeries that involve the amputation of bones and the insertion of an artificial prostheses. Because of that huge operation, the risk of a heart attack or stroke right after knee replacement skyrockets. If that doesn’t get you, high levels of pain are common after knee replacement with the most common pain score being 5/10 a year out from the procedure. In addition, many patients end up needing pain medications long after the soreness from the surgery is done.
This new study follows on the work of others that have examined activity after hip or knee replacement. Those studies demonstrated that few people return to the types of activity they desire. This research actually used activity trackers worn by patients to compare what they thought they should be able to do once their joint was replaced versus the activity they actually were able to achieve. What was very disturbing was that only 5% or less achieved anything approaching normal physical activity!
The upshot? Don’t be fooled by the commercials. Multiple studies have shown that patients rarely get back to the types of activities seen in these ads after hip and knee replacement. In addition, this government funded study was one of the first to use electronic activity trackers that aren’t susceptible to the hopes and dreams of the patient (i.e. I filled out the questionnaire with what I hope to be doing soon). The fact that only 1 in 20 people got back to normal healthy activity levels means that the commercials you see on TV are more bovine fecal matter than reality!