Mr Stuart Edwards, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Aut Even Hospital, tells us more about knee surgery; specifically, the reasons for needing replacement surgery and the hesitancy that exists among potential knee surgery patients for undergoing the surgery.

WHAT IS THE MAIN CAUSE OF KNEE PROBLEMS AMONG THE PATIENTS YOU SEE?

Mr Edwards: About 90% of the time, the main cause of the knee problem is osteoarthritis, which is not just an Irish thing – it’s a northern European thing. Genetics means that you can be predisposed to arthritis. However, there are also other contributory factors that play their part such as repetitive trauma to the knee. This is often seen in patients who have played a lot of sports — hurling, football, soccer and so on; and major trauma like an accident where you break the lining of the knee and are then predisposed to arthritis as a result.

WHY WOULD YOU NEED A KNEE REPLACEMENT?

Mr Edwards: The primary reason for a knee replacement is pain. I normally ask patients five simple questions and if they tick all the boxes, they are a candidate for knee replacement surgery.
If patients have pain on a daily basis; if it disturbs their sleep at night; if they are taking pain killers to get daily relief; if they have described their knee pain as a misery rather than a nuisance and if they struggle walking a mile, then they are a very strong candidate for a knee replacement.
There are other contributory factors that impact upon the need for knee replacement surgery. The main one is obesity and that is becoming as a big a problem in Ireland.

WHY ARE PEOPLE SO HESITANT TO UNDERGO KNEE SURGERY?

Mr Edwards: People get used to living with the pain. They sometimes think that things will improve. Sometimes the surgery itself is the off-putting thing. And naturally they worry that won’t recover well after the surgery. That is often the fear of having knee replacement surgery – yes, it takes a while to get back but usually people resume normal functionality.
That’s why its important to get a consultation with your surgeon. I don’t force joint replacement on patients. It’s all about knowing your options, what the likelihood is of success and your rehabilitation period and to get an understanding of it all and then you’ll be in a much better place to make an informed decision.