I arrived at the hospital to pick up my mother from her second knee replacement procedure. I walked her to my waiting Elantra, opened the door, and ensured that she was comfortable. My legally blind father got in to the passenger side. As I prepared to pull out into traffic, my mom blurted out from the backseat that I was going the wrong way. I stopped. Such outbursts are not uncommon from my mother but I was fairly sure that I was going the right way. “Drive us to the parking garage,” she said.
“Why?” I asked.
She clutched my arm in what is knows as “the claw.”
“Because my car is parked there and I intend to drive home,” she said.
Even though I knew this was a bad idea, my mom’s firm grip meant that I had no other choice but to do exactly what she said. I realize that I had been enlisted to pick them up only as “cover” so the hospital staff would release her.
I pulled in next to their sedan and shook my head over and over. “You know this is stupid,” I said. “Your mind is perfectly sound, it was your knee that needed replacing but I’m starting to really question your judgement,” I said.
Mom dismissed my concerns and proceeded to occupy the driver’s seat and my father got in the passenger side. They pulled out. What else could I do? I followed them home.
Mom has made a full recovery from her knee replacements. She experiences less pain and is able to travel and do all the things she loves.
This was my mother’s second knee replacement, having undergone arthroscopic knee surgery in the past to try to fix her knee troubles. Her symptoms returned and her doctor said the time had come for total replacement. She is one of the 600,000 patients this last year to receive knee replacements. That figure is double what it was a mere 10 years ago. An artificial knee will last 15 to 20 years, so many of those patients will be visiting the orthopedic surgeon again in their lifetime. About 10% of seniors age 80-89 have had knee replacements.
Orthopaedics is more than knees. It involves study of the musculoskeletal system, which includes muscles, joints and tendons. Orthopedic surgeons also perform procedures on:
More common in young people and especially athletes, ACL surgery is performed to repair and stabilize the anterior cruciate ligament and surrounding area. Only about half of sports injuries to the ACL will require ACL surgery. Less serious injuries resulting from sports such as football, soccer and basketball can be healed with physical therapy and rehabilitation. There is almost always an athlete on crutches in the halls of any public high school in the country. The number of ACL surgeries is on the rise primarily because kids start playing competitive sports at younger ages and club sports allow them to play year-round. With the additional strain on the body, it’s no wonder that ACL repair and ACL reconstruction is on the rise.
Shoulder injuries are the fifth most common injury for high school athletes, but adults often visit the orthopedist. Last year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, over 53,000 people had shoulder replacement surgery.
Young or old, athlete or not, our muscles and joints wear out with age and if you’re lucky enough to live a long life, you might need some new parts. Doctors specializing in orthopaedics are prepared to diagnose and repair your aching joints.