Patients deciding whether to have a double knee replacement must carefully consider the pros and cons, an orthopedic surgeon says.
“Many people want to have a double knee replacement because they feel they can get it over with faster since there’s one surgery, one hospital stay and one course of rehabilitation,” said Dr. Geoffrey Westrich.
Called a “bilateral procedure,” double knee replacement enables people with severely arthritic knees to get back to their normal lives faster, “and for the right patient, it’s a good option,” said Westrich. He is research director of adult reconstruction and joint replacement at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
“However, double knee replacement is not for everyone, and people should be well-informed before making a decision,” he added.
Double knee replacement has a higher rate of complications, including heart problems and blood clots. Patients lose more blood, so are more likely to need a blood transfusion, and rehabilitation is much more demanding, Westrich said.
Patients must be in excellent physical condition, aside from the arthritis, and have no underlying health problems, he explained.
Due to the higher risk of complications, double knee replacements aren’t performed in patients older than 75, Westrich said.
“Not too long ago, people thought that if you had one knee replaced, the pain and rehab would be so taxing you wouldn’t want to come back for surgery on the other knee,” he said in a hospital news release.
“But nowadays, with advances in surgical techniques, anesthesia and pain management, the recovery for a single knee replacement at a high-volume joint replacement center is much easier and faster than it was in the past. In our experience, virtually every patient comes back for the second knee replacement,” Westrich said.
Patients typically wait at least three months between surgeries, he said.
Another important consideration is that while most patients go home after a single knee replacement, those who have a double knee replacement almost always spend time in a rehabilitation facility after surgery, Westrich said.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more on knee replacement.