The Most Common Questions About My Knee Surgery


Gwendolyn King

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The Knee Pain Diaries, Gwendolyn, Knee Pain, PSN

After my knee replacement surgery, my friends and peers asked me a lot of questions. Knee replacements are quite common for people my age, and many friends know that for them, it’s not if they’ll have to undergo replacement surgery, but when. Most often, I’m asked the following questions:

1. What exactly happened during the surgery? Did they explain the procedure to you?

My knee pain became enough of a problem that my doctor and I determined that surgery would be my best option. The goal of my replacement surgery was to replace the damaged cartilage in my knee joint, in order to relieve my knee pain. The doctors explained what was going to happen and this is my understanding: For the surgery, I went under anesthesia and then was positioned on my back on the operating table. They put my knee in a brace before proceeding to cut my knee open and expose the bone. They then sawed off the top and bottom part of the bone and drilled a hole in both parts. Pieces of smooth metal and plastic were inserted where the bone was removed, to replace the damaged cartilage. Then, they wiggled my leg a little to make sure it was bending correctly, and the surgeon closed it back up. Only two days after the surgery, I was released for at-home therapy.

2. What was the pain like after your knee replacement surgery?

Right after the surgery, there was really no pain because of the medication I was given. That was a pleasant surprise. Every now and then I have sharp nerve pains. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and it’ll feel as if someone has hit me in the leg in one concentrated spot. So I went to my doctor and he said this kind of pain would be expected because of all the tissue they had to cut through during the surgery. That’s understandable. But I know I underestimate the pain and overdo it at times. For example, yesterday I was working in the yard all day and I pushed myself too much. I always know when I overdo it. My leg swelled a bit, but when I came inside and elevated it, I felt much better. Being on my feet or knees for a long time definitely aggravates it.

3. Was there any scarring after the surgery?

I did have some scarring. Whenever I have surgery, I normally always end up with some kind of scar, so it’s not a big deal. I can’t tell you what other people may think, but I really don’t think it’s too bad; the scar is very minimal. It’s a few inches down the front of my knee, but I’d do it all over again to get the same results.

4. Do you have problems going up and down the stairs now?

Before the surgery, going up and down stairs was very painful. In fact, moving my knees at all was incredibly painful. I live in a split level home. Because maneuvering the steps was so painful, we made the sun porch on the first floor my bedroom. If I wanted to take a bath on the top level, I would make that very painful, slow climb up the stairs, take my bath, and spend the night on the top floor—just so I wouldn’t have to do the stairs again. But now, a couple months after my surgery, going up and down the stairs isn’t problematic at all. I can move without pain in every step, and I can get to where I need to go. That’s the most important thing.

Gwendolyn King lives with her daughter and her niece outside Atlanta.