I was scheduled to have total knee replacement surgery on my right knee yesterday, and I cancelled the surgery. Some might say that I wimped out, but I think I have good reasons. I will have replacements on both knees and perhaps sooner than later, but I was not ready for it.

I was scheduled to have total knee replacement surgery on my right knee yesterday, and I cancelled the surgery. Some might say that I wimped out, but I think I have good reasons. I will have replacements on both knees and perhaps sooner than later, but I was not ready for it.


In December, when I was on crutches, I would have taken the surgical saw in my own hands and started cutting, as I was in so much pain. The crutches are now in the closet and I am walking a mile on the treadmill, so I chose another path.


Part of my problem is I know too much. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. Because I spend considerable time reviewing medical records in all kinds of malpractice cases, I have reviewed records of total knee replacement surgeries with bad results. I have looked at four such cases in the past six months. I saw firsthand what can happen through the fault of no one when complications occur.


Three of the cases involved infection, which means the prosthesis has to be taken out until the infection is eliminated. There is a considerable risk of infection whenever they put a foreign body in you, and I know it happens in a fraction of cases. I just happened to see it in three cases I was reviewing, so it happened to 100 percent of those cases. I realize I should not base my decision on the risk of infection, but I could not help thinking about my clients’ experiences. In one of the cases, they had to amputate my client’s leg.


In another case, the knee froze up and the woman had to have two surgeries to give her knee full range of motion and she is still suffering and does not have full range of motion. I think she would rather have the pain of bone on bone in her knee joint rather than face the restricted range of motion, excruciating physical therapy and constant pain that she has now.


I also watched a client of mine walk down a flight of stairs recently with great difficulty.  Maybe the pain is gone and he brags that he shoots baskets with his grandson, but he was not descending the stairs with ease. I have no problem with stairs, up or down.


Perhaps the deciding point in my decision to postpone the surgery was when my insurance company did not approve injections of Orthovisc in my knee joints back in January, because I had not been through conservative therapy, including physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medicines. Orthovisc is the WD-40 for joints as it replaces natural joint fluid to cushion the joint. The website for this drug indicates that it will give you relief up to six months. So I know the relief is not long term, but I thought it was worth a shot of joint juice. My insurance company did not agree.


So I started thinking about my situation, which is a dangerous thing for me to do. My high school track coach, Bill Summa, always told me I thought too much before I ran, and I might have run better if I had not thought so much.


Yet, when I started thinking about the prospect of knee replacement surgery, I asked myself why no one had ordered physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications, so I asked my doctor. I just finished my fifth session of physical therapy, which is not to be confused with physical torture, although sometimes it feels like torture. I have a great physical therapist, Ed Knapp, with Summit Strength Physical Therapy.


I found out that I have weak hip muscles. I exercise four or five times a week. How can I have weak hips? I do. I also cannot fully extend my right leg and Ed is helping me with that.


I have a choice. I can get it straight now or wait until after surgery. Even though the exercises and stretching are not pleasant, I think I would rather go through it now. Ed says that my therapy after knee replacement surgery should be much easier, having gone through this process before surgery.


I asked Ed why more people did not have therapy before knee replacement surgery and he said it might have something to do with the fact that my insurance company only approves 20 physical therapy visits a year. It seems to me that orthopedic doctors and therapists ought to work together before you yank out the joint and make it easier for the patient. Yet health insurance companies guide healthcare. So it’s the insurance company that makes life more difficult. Why am I surprised by that?


I am going to have knee replacement surgery on both knees some day. Yet, when it happens, I am going to be ready for it and I am going to do it when I am ready. I can handle the pain and discomfort. I might be kidding myself, but I think I now have less pain after five physical therapy visits and I know I have much greater flexibility in my legs. And I also can get up after a full night in bed and walk without a limp or any pain.


So I postponed my surgery. I am only half-joking when I say that my surgeon will also have to postpone his new car purchase because of my decision. I must admit that I was not thinking about him when I made the decision.