With a growing aging population, more people will suffer from osteoarthritis – a painful condition affecting the joints that is often accepted as a sign of getting older. As one determined lady discovered, knee replacement can be the answer to enjoying life again.

A painful knee was never going to stop 78-year-old Iris Stewart from swimming, walking and doing high-intensity workouts at her local gym.

The former nurse was diagnosed with osteoarthritis (the most common form of arthritis) at the age of 50. She continued to keep active until the pain became too much and she nervously asked her GP about knee replacement surgery.

“I used to walk a mile to the gym but my left knee would lock and it was very painful. I had avoided surgery because I’d heard horror stories from friends,” she says.

 

The average age of patients is 69-years

 

Her doctor referred her to Guy's and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London where the orthopaedic team put her mind at ease. The surgeons explained how this life-enhancing surgery is already helping thousands of UK sufferers become free of debilitating knee pain.

In 2016, 108,713 knee replacement procedures were recorded in England and Wales (up 3.8% on the year before) with the average age of patients being 69-years-old.

“I went into surgery last October and five weeks after my operation I was travelling on the bus to the gym without the need of a stick. It surprised my personal trainer – he didn’t expect to see me again, ever!” says Iris. “By week eight, I was back on the spin bike and using free weights as well as doing some high-intensity exercises.”

Iris was back at the gym within two months but this was largely thanks to her excellent level of fitness prior to her surgery.

The operation was so successful that Iris decided to have her right knee replaced in April.

The consultant orthopaedic surgeon who has supported her throughout her journey is Raghbir Khakha, who is thrilled by how quickly she has recovered.

Negative stories and false information can deter people from exploring knee replacement surgery despite their worsening osteoarthritis,” says Raghbir. “The main reason for anyone to have knee replacement surgery is to remove pain so they can get back to doing the things they love to do. That is certainly the case with Iris.”

 

Surgery is more accurate now than 10 years ago

 

“This area of surgery has moved on incredibly in the last decade thanks to technology,” he says. “The surgery is more precise and accurate and the implants are precision engineered to better match the patient’s anatomy and to replicate as closely as possible the natural knee.”

Anyone considering surgery needs to understand the procedure so they can ask the right questions. Patients should also understand that they can choose the surgeon who is right for them. At Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, patients have a close relationship with the complete healthcare team so they can be informed throughout the entire patient pathway, i.e. the process to prepare for and recover from surgery.

“People worry about different things, such as how long they will have to take off work after surgery,” says Raghbir. “But there is excellent aftercare from nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and pharmacists. I will see my patients six weeks after their surgery and then at regular intervals over the next 18 months.”

Home visits are also organised through the Trust’s knee replacement outreach and support service. This initiative is reducing the length of hospital stays and releasing beds because it encourages people to recover at home. Occupational therapists will check that rooms have been properly adapted so patients can use the stairs or bathroom while they recover.

 

When should someone consider knee replacement surgery?

 

Raghbir says the number one reason for contemplating surgery is night pain. The pain can be so bad that it causes frequent sleepless nights. “If you are not sleeping well it can affect other parts of your life, such as your mental health,” he says. “Imagine how you might feel after a late night out. And then, imagine feeling like that every single day.”

 “The next reason is lifestyle. Are your painful knees stopping you going to the shops or playing with your grandchildren?”

He says patients have a responsibility to take steps to help their replacement knees to work effectively following surgery to help achieve the best outcomes. This means not only attending physiotherapy sessions at the hospital, but also doing regular, prescribed exercises at home.

“I am frank and open with my patients and make a deal with them. I tell them they will get the best care and surgery the hospital can provide but they need to put in the work afterwards.”

The recovery time after knee replacement surgery varies from patient to patient. The knee replacement Iris received is associated with notable improvements in patients’ quality of life as early as six weeks following the operation that progressively increases over the next 18 months.

So, is Iris pleased with her new knee?

“Absolutely. I would recommend anyone suffering from knee pain and who is unable to enjoy life as they used to ask their doctor about the procedure,” she says. “I can even do squats in the gym now, whereas before I could only do them in the pool.”

With her new knee, it’s inspiring how this 78-year-old has no intention of slowing down.

 

Learn more

 

Dr Khakha chose the ATTUNE® Knee System (ATTUNE) for Iris’ knee replacement procedure. The ATTUNE is designed to optimize how a knee joint feels and moves by working with the natural knee anatomy; allowing muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments to continue to work together, with the aim to provide increased stability during movement. Visit www.provingthepromise.com for more information.