For years now I have had pain in my right knee. It really isn’t anything very recent. As a kid I played basketball and I know I somehow injured by knee when I was young because when I had to report to the draft when I was 18, (the U.S. Army draft, not a basketball team draft) I remember that my knee was causing problems at that time. Well, it was the kind of pain that you only feel occasionally for most of my life, so it was tolerable.
Over the past few years the pain has gotten worse and has been pretty consistent whenever I walked. About six months ago I went to have my knee x-rayed and then I had an MRI scan. What the doctors discovered was that there was no cartilage whatsoever between the femur and tibia (the thigh bone and the lower leg bone). Cartilage is present in healthy people and acts as a soft buffer or “cushion” when you walk so that the bones don’t rub against each other. Well, it turns out that, in my right knee, I had what is officially known as osteoarthritis. That is, the loss of cartilage and connecting tissue. Some of it is caused by aging, but injuries to the knee can also accelerate the deterioration.
My doctors said that there is no way to “grow” back cartilage and that a permanent cure would be to have a total knee replacement, or arthroplasty
Being opposed in general to surgery (especially on me, and especially when someone is going to be cutting my bones), I decided to postpone having surgery and decided to try some other treatments. I tried some homeopathic remedies and I tried taking some anti-inflammatory medication. Well, as you can imagine, nothing worked, and I became resigned about surgery. I decided to put my trust in my surgeon and agreed to have a MIS Arthroplasty. That is, a minimally invasive surgery total knee replacement.
I won’t go into the details, but I had the surgery on Monday, September 19th. I was discharged from the hospital yesterday, Thursday, September 22. While they want me to use a cane for safety reasons, I can walk without one. There is, of course, some pain during the healing process, but I am told that that should disappear within six weeks, and I have to do rehab exercises. But, I am able, four days after the surgery, to do my normal activities. I can go for walks, I can go to the office as long as I don’t sit at my desk for more than an hour at a time, I can even go out to restaurants. Since it is my right knee, my driving leg, I won’t be able to drive for about two to three more weeks.
I had a lot of apprehension about the surgery. I consider it amazing that they can remove my old knee and replace it with a new one and have me out and walking within a few days. Modern medicine is so technically advanced from what it was even five years ago. Of course I owe a lot to the Institute for Joint Replacement at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and their fantastic and caring staff of post-operative nurses, physical therapy and occupational therapy specialists. I also owe special gratitude to my surgeon, Dr. Brad L. Penenberg, a man of great and special talent.
We are lucky to be living in a country where the funding for technological advancements and improvements in science are made especially by private contribution but also by government assistance. America is truly a great country. Who would have imagined even 25 years ago that you could remove a knee joint, replace it with a prosthetic knee, and have the patient up and walking within a few days?
[Original Post: September 23, 2005]
UPDATE 16 January 2006:
It has now been four months since I had the surgery. I spent three months going three times a week to a physical therapist doing rehab on my leg for an hour and one-half per session (4 1/2 hours per week). The leg muscles need to be rehabilitated, and long-time habits of limping to avoid knee pain have to be eliminated. I now have fully rehabilitated my right leg. My new prosthetic knee now works better than my original knee, and especially, I have no pain.
I have heard some horror stories from others who have had knee replacement surgery. Thank G-d I didn’t experience any negative reactions relating to my knee. I attribute a good deal of the success of this operation to my doctor, Dr. Brad Penenberg, as I indicated previously.