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Returning to Work After Knee Replacement Highly Likely for Patients



For many individuals, especially those who work in a field that requires physical mobility, deciding to undergo knee replacement surgery qualifies as a major decision. Besides the concerns that accompany any surgical procedure, a knee surgery guarantees several months of recovery and decreased mobility, which can cause a patient to miss a sizeable amount of work.

Concerns over whether they can ever make a full recovery and successfully return to work can cause many patients to delay or forego knee surgery, leading to persistent pain and a decreased quality of life.

Fortunately for those considering the procedure, a new study has found that the majority of patients who undergo knee replacement surgery successfully return to work, even those who work physically demanding jobs.

The study, which researchers from the Joint Implant Surgeons plan to present at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons annual meeting, shows that 98 percent of patients who undergo total knee replacement surgery are able to return work following the procedure. This should come as welcome news for anyone needing to undergo the procedure but concerned about what it could mean to their livelihood.

Knee Replacement Surgery

Total knee replacement surgery also referred to as knee arthroplasty, is a procedure doctors typically recommend to any patient who has suffered a severe damage knee joint due to arthritis. In addition to arthritis, age, genetics, and sports-related injuries can also play a role in whether a patient needs knee replacement surgery.

A procedure that usually takes about two hours, replacement surgery involves cutting into the knee in order to remove any cartilage and damaged bone, balancing and realigning the joint space, and replacing it with an artificial joint made from special plastics and metals. The goal of every knee replacement procedure is to improve a patient’s function and mobility, while also reducing pain.

Over the last 20 years, the number of patients who have undergone knee replacement surgery has more than doubled to an average of over 244,000 a year.

Study Results

To determine how successfully patients were able to return to work following a knee replacement surgery, researchers surveyed over 700 individuals who had recently undergone the procedure. Of the participants, 61 percent were women, and 75 percent were employed at least three months prior to undergoing the surgery. The age range of patients was from 18 to 60, with an average age of 54.

The work environments of the study participants ranged from sedentary deskwork to highly physical labor.

While researchers determined that 98 percent of the patients involved in the study returned to work following their surgery, 89 percent went back to the same jobs they had prior to knee replacement. Most notably, according to researchers, was the high percentage of patients that went back to their physically demanding jobs.

Of the patients whose jobs were reported as being very heavily labor-intensive, 97 percent returned to work, while 98 percent of patients whose jobs were described as heavily labor-intensive went back to work. Of the remaining patients, 95 percent returned to jobs described as sedentary, 91 percent returned to jobs that required light work, and 100 percent returned to jobs of a medium-intensity.

So while every patient considers knee replacement still needs to give careful thought about the procedure prior to undergoing surgery, concerns over whether they can return to work should no longer weight heavily on their minds.