Wednesday, January 26, 2011

7 Weeks After Surgery

I will continue to enter weekly updates on the recuperation progress from total knee replacement up through the 8th week. After the 8th week, I will go to bi-weekly updates.

Here is the progress report after 7 weeks of recovery from total knee replacement:
  • On Monday, January 24, I returned to work full time. I had been working 1/2 time since January 10. With 3 days of full time work behind me, I can say that I am getting through the day without too much difficulty. My job is generally a desk job. I am not required to walk extensively or stand for long periods of time. If I was working in the trades industry, say construction work involving heavy labor, I would not be able to return to work for several more weeks, perhaps even several more months.
  • While my knee remains swollen, there does seem to be improvement day-to-day with less swelling due to activity. At the start of this week, I am finding that I need to ice the knee only after Physical Therapy and during the evening when at home.
  • This past weekend, I reached another milestone by taking the dog for a walk around our short block, perhaps a distance of 250 yards. I used the cane to provide stability as there is ice and snow on the road. But I was able to walk around the block for the first time since the surgery. I am noticing that walking longer distances in general is getting easier.
  • I continue to use the cane, but less often. I no longer use the cane when walking about my house or walking short distances in the office at work. I store the cane in my car and depend on it when walking outside on longer distances. The quadracep muscle is definitely firing up and I have more confidence in my steps with a stronger leg.
  • This past Monday at PT, they measured my knee bend at 97 degrees, so improvement in flexion is occuring. Another indication of improved knee flexion is the maximization of motion on the Biodex machine. I am now maxing out at 100% of motion for knee extension and the knee bend.
I also want to say that I am happy that I did this knee surgery during the winter months here in Michigan. The surgery was done on December 8, and seven weeks later puts the date at January 26--a time when the weather is very cold, and there are few reasons to venture outside. As a result, I have been able to focus on convalescence without distraction of warm weather events outside  . Furthermore, with the schedule of the University of Michigan, I have been able to take 6 weeks off work without falling too far behind as the University work environment slows down dramatically between mid-December and the first week of January.

One other discovery I have made is that total knee replacment is not successful for everyone. Before surgery, I often heard anecdotally that those who did total knee replacment often said, "why did they wait so long since the results were so beneficail". However, testimonies from others I have encounteread at physical therapy have confirmed that total knee replacment is not a cure-all for everyone. Some have continued problems with flexion, pain, and decreased quality of life. Some even have premature failure of the prosthesis, thus requiring another major surgery within a few years of the original surgery. One woman I talked with in her early 50's had three major surgeries on her knee within one year. Another man told me that the first total knee replacment failed after only two years, and he had to get another one in order to walk.

These mixed reports on total knee replacement have given me some reason to pause and question whether I will really be able to achieve my goal of pain free motion for biking, swimming, walking, and general life activities. While I remain optimistic and committed to hard work to make this successful, these stories have made me question the overall success I hope to achieve.

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