When a Knee Replacement Specialist Needs His Own New Knee

Ira H. Kirschenbaum, MD


September 07, 2016

In This Article

Pre-op Physical Therapy

August 18, 2016

I finished my preoperative physical therapy this morning. For many years, I ordered pre-op PT for my patients but was never really sure of its value. Now I am sure. It's really great. It lowers the fear of what to expect. In a controlled setting, my therapists reviewed all of the exercises in my regimen before I experienced postoperative pain. They were caring and comprehensive. It's amazing how every little thing—from which foot to put first to how to position your leg—has a science behind it. I really valued this appointment. We discussed exercises, equipment, and modalities to decrease the pain. Pre-op PT: Don't go into the OR without it!

The Pain Epiphany

August 19, 2016

I woke up this morning with a remarkable amount of pain in my knee. This should be no surprise. In 3 days, I am getting my left knee joint surgically replaced because of the pain. As I limped across the room, I realized that this is how I had woken up for many days over the past few months, and in a strange way, I had gotten used to this pain as part of my life. I did fewer errands, walked up and down the stairs at home fewer times, and avoided doing many things that I used to do.

So it hit me that, very soon, I would be saying goodbye to this pain. I almost didn't remember what it was like to be unrestricted in my activity, and it is amazing how insidious pain is as it creeps into your daily routine and attaches like bamboo roots to your brain.

Fortunately for me, daily Aleve was all I really needed to take the edge off the pain, but I know that other people need stronger medications. I am sure that their dependence on these medications happened slowly over time and that not all of these people had a surgical solution to their problem. While I am not looking forward to the pain after the surgery, I am looking forward to no more pain after I heal.

The Countdown

August 20, 2016

Two days before surgery, I just want the surgery to be done. From the surgeon's point of view, the day before surgery is just a regular day. I would have planned all of the operations I had scheduled a week before so that all I had to do was show up. As the patient, it is a different story. I am going through a checklist that my surgeon gave me. There seems to be way more stuff to do as a patient than I thought there was. After doing over 3500 knee replacements, I guess that reviewing the list with patients is second nature, but when you're actually the patient, there is a lot to remember:

  • Prescriptions: pain medications, blood thinner, nausea meds;

  • Antibacterial shower gel;

  • Walker, cane, elevation pillow, raised toilet seat, shower seat;

  • Foot pumps;

  • Ice packs, and

  • Incentive spirometer.

I am picking up my wife from the airport today. I can't even imagine the stress my surgery is putting on her. The caregiver shares in the pain and the process. Fortunately, this is time-limited until I get better.

I just got a text reminder to fill out my preoperative patient-reported outcomes scores. These forms let my surgeon know how I am doing throughout the process. They also allow for comparison with other patients. I am managing a flurry of well-wishers on Facebook, LinkedIn, and email and expect to get really busy today waiting for the surgery. There's not much else to do.


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