Bilateral Knee Replacement: When Two Knees Go Bad: January 8, 2012

Imagine having not one, but two bad knees. That’s how Chris Naylor found herself navigating through life.

“The arthritis was the same in both knees however in the right knee, this particular leg it went down straight on the upper leg and the arthritis did enough damage where it angled outward and I no longer had a straight leg.”

Her orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Ed Humbert, knew exactly what Chris needed; two total knee replacements. She had two options: do them simultaneously or stage them one at a time.

“Some patients decide that they want to do the right and the left knee simultaneously which is always an option on the right patient,” says Dr. Ed Humbert, an orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff with Lee Memorial Health System.

Done at the same time, the bilateral knee replacement carries risks and benefits.

“The risks of medical problems which are associated with surgery go up a little bit which would be strokes, heart attacks, blood clots in the legs or deep vein thrombosis. Those risks go up a little bit when you start to do multiple operations, with the benefit of you go through one rehab period of both knees,” says Dr. Humbert.

Downtime is lower with the double replacement. For people who are juggling a work schedule, it may be a good option. Chris evaluated her choices and opted to do them back-to-back.

“I had the first one done, went through four weeks of physical therapy, had a break for two weeks from physical therapy, had the second knee done, started all over again and I’m now about ten weeks post-op of the second knee.”

The total knee replacement is one of the most common surgeries done in this country. A half million are performed each year.

“Replacing of a knee is really resurfacing the knee. We don’t cut out the knee joint we really resurface a few millimeters or take off a very few millimeters of the damaged cartilage and bone and cap the end of the femur bone the tibia bone and the patella,” says Dr. Humbert.

Having opted to do them in stages, Chris is back on her feet and happy with her decision.

“It’s been wonderful. It probably might not be a choice for everyone, but it was an outstanding choice for me.”