It turns out, the best knee replacement is the one you can forget about. At least that’s what Austrian researchers suggest in a recently published study.1
Traditionally, researchers and doctors have assumed that patients who report significantly decreased knee pain and increased knee function—say, being able to climb stairs and walk long distances—are very or totally satisfied with their new knees.
However, pain and function may not be the only factors affecting satisfaction. In this new study, researchers investigated “joint awareness,” asking patients whether or not they are aware of their new knees. In other words, are patients able to forget about their new knees while going about day-to-day activities? And if not, when are they most aware of their new knees?
When do patients notice their prosthetic knees?
The researchers interviewed 40 people who had undergone total, partial, or revision knee replacements at least 12 months prior to the study. Most people reported being aware of their new knees.
- 27 people said that they notice the new knee during daily activities, most often when climbing or descending stairs.
- 24 people said they are aware of their artificial knees during specific movements, such as kneeling or rising from a chair.
- 21 people indicated sensations, such as stiffness (the most common), swelling, “crackling,” or numbness.
In general, the survey results showed a wide variety of sensations in the prosthetic knees as well as triggers that cause them.
How does joint awareness affect satisfaction?
Some patients who indicated awareness of artificial knees expressed fears of future knee problems. One patient interviewed for the study was quoted as saying “You live differently, you are more cautious, you don’t jump up—you have the impression that you have to take care of the new knee.”
Good outcomes vs. very good and excellent outcomes
We cannot assume that people who are frequently aware of their new knees are not satisfied with their knee replacements or regret their decision to have surgery. Instead, joint awareness may be just another factor that helps determine joint replacement patients’ level of satisfaction.