To operate or not to operate? It is a question which often divides the medical community with different surgeons, physios, GPs, and other specialists all having varied opinions. If you are managing a knee condition, it can be difficult to know if you need knee surgery or not. We're here to help!
Do I need knee surgery?
From a patient’s point of view, it can often take a lot into account. You often have questions like, will it work? What are the risks involved? How much will it cost? Am I better off doing something else? The surgery itself can vary greatly from a simple quick procedure done under local anaesthetic all the way up to multiple procedures performed under general anaesthetic.
While the question of whether or not you need knee surgery is ultimately one that can only be answered by you and your doctor, there’s a lot you can do educate yourself.
To help you understand when to have the discussion with your doctor about surgery, and when to manage your issue conservatively (which means a non-surgical option), we’ve outlined the below key questions.
What is the issue?
This is the most important question when looking at surgery as an option. While there are hundreds of different conditions, injuries and diseases that affect your knee, they can all be broadly categorised into two different clusters:
- Acute knee issues which are sudden and can be recovered over a period of time, for example, a fracture, ligament rupture or sprain.
- Chronic knee issues which gradually progress over time (arthritis, genetic condition etc).
While both can be managed with conservative, non-surgical, treatment like bracing, physiotherapy and medication.
More severe issues are managed in different ways, depending on the condition.
Acute knee issues which are more severe, such as a full ligament rupture or compound fracture, are often treated by conservative therapy and surgery if conservative management is ineffective.
Have you explored your options?
Depending on who you talk to, you may be advised to seek surgery straight away. While it can help it’s important to first explore your conservative options.
Before going under the knife, have a look at the checklist below to see if you’ve done what you can for your knee.
- Have seen a physiotherapist to address the issue through strengthening and exercise.
- Have consulted an orthotist or specialist company like Bauerfeind to look at bracing options for your knee.
- Have consulted your GP to explore other options like medication, specialist treatment or other holistic avenues.
- Have sought out the opinion of at least two different knee specialists in regard to surgery (if you’re getting opposing advice, speak to your GP).
Is there something wrong with knee surgery?
Knee surgery itself isn’t bad but has its own pro’s and con’s to consider.
To provide a general overview, here is an outline of some of the advantages and disadvantages of knee surgery.
Advantages of knee surgery
- Relief from chronic pain, especially severe arthritic pain.
- Increased mobility where pain stopped movement.
- Little to no need for further treatment in successful cases.
- Often subsidised by the government.
Disadvantages of knee surgery
- There is a risk of complication, potential scar tissue, nerve damage for example.
- Short-term relief can lead to long-term issues in some cases, especially with the removal of parts of the knee that can lead to pain and arthritis down the track.
- Age, health conditions and public wait-list can all make it difficult to become eligible.
- It is not a viable solution for certain chronic issues, for example, genetic disorders.
- The cost of operation can be quite high if it's not subsidised, often it can start at around $5,000 for a standard ligament repair (with out of pocket costs varying widely).
Overall, knee surgery should never be considered lightly. If you’re interested in conservative treatment of your knee, just speak to your GP or give us a call and one of our friendly staff will help you out.
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Bauerfeind products are developed at our innovation and manufacturing facility in Zeulenroda, Germany. Based on years of scientific research, our award-winning braces and support garments are highly recommended by medical professionals and athletes worldwide.