Problems After a Total Knee Replacement Gone Bad

For all those who are considering knee replacement - this is a worst case scenario. This is not a normal experience for patients who undergo joint replacement.

This was, however, my mother's experience with knee replacement. I am posting this Hub partly to educate people, and partly to call for suggestions from anyone who has any expertise or similar experiences.

Childhood to Early Adulthood

Mom was clearly born with some sort of deformity in her knee, though how severe it was, we'll never know now. She had her first knee surgery at age 14, called a Meniscectomy. This is the surgical removal of cartilage. The surgery took place in 1969, when knowledge and technology was far inferior to now. Mom thinks that this surgery was completely unnecessary and the reason she has absolutely zero cartilage in her knee.

1976, however, was the year that destroyed her knee. She was told she needed surgery again, and she had the Hauser surgery, which doctors now know is a barbaric surgery that is never done anymore. This is the simplest explanation I could find anywhere online. The surgeon removes the kneecap and disconnects it, then reattaches it.

Adulthood

From childhood to adulthood, Mom has had "a bad leg", which essentially means constant pain, deformity, a pronounced limp, not to mention disfiguring scars. Then, as if there weren't enough problems, when I was about 2 years old, I jumped on her leg and, as they found out later, tore a ligament in her knee. She had arthroscopic surgery in 1990, in which the surgeon found the torn ligament but chose not to repair it, for what reason I do not know.

Pre-Knee Replacement

Fall of 2006: Mom is a substitute teacher at an elementary school, and an obnoxious, misbehaving, nutso child moves the process along again. She reached out a hand to guide him back into line, and he twists around, knocking her to the floor, giving her a herniated disk in her lower back, and of course she lands on her bad knee. The pain worsens throughout her entire body, and she goes to an orthopedic surgeon, who recommends arthroplasty, or total knee replacement.

Mom has severe doubts. After every surgery she's ever had, her knee has not gotten better, but worse. But this seems like the solution of a lifetime of knee problems. Everyone advises her to have the surgery (when it comes to making complicated medical decisions, suddenly everyone seems to have a medical degree). The one person who DOES have a medical degree, however, also advised her to have the surgery. Mom warned him, over and over, about the unique situation of her knee, her deformity, the lack of cartilage, the torn ligament, as well as her varicose veins and herniated disk. He assured her, in what I considered a dismissive and arrogant way, that he could fix whatever he found in there.

Surgery and the Months Following

I'm sure it is needless to say that he didn't quite accomplish what he promised. After the surgery, in late June, 2007, she stayed in the hospital for about a week in the CPM, or Continuous Passive Motion machine, which bends and straightens the knee continuously. After that, she went home, and a home physical therapist came three times a week. She barely pushed Mom at all, which actually ended up being harmful in the long run, but we didn't know that at the time. She never attempted to manually bend or straighten Mom's knee. Her knee began to freeze in a half-bent, half-straight position.



At her 1-month post-op exam, the knee surgeon showed considerable alarm at her inability to straighten her knee. He informed her that she had to have a manipulation to straighten her knee or she would never walk again. This decision was not left up to her. She asked if she could try (real) physical therapy first, and he said that was not an option. Despite the fact that this appeared to be an emergency, the surgery was postponed by the doctor's scheduler. She had the surgery in mid-August.

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