PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Leo Wisniewski played football in college and professionally and his knees reminded him of this every day.
“I would have a good bit of pain standing,” says Leo. “As a high school football coach, practice sessions were really killer.”
When he couldn’t coach anymore, he decided it was time for knee replacements. But instead of one at a time, some friends convinced him to go for both.
“You’re young enough, and healthy enough, your pain tolerance is pretty good, you could handle the double knee replacement, and really reduce the time in physical therapy,” says Leo about how his doctor convinced him to go for both.
“No. It is not customary,” says Canonsburg Hospital orthopedic surgeon Dr. Donald Ravasio.”It seems to be happening a little bit more frequently only in the sense that people are getting their knees replaced at a younger age.”
The advantages are only one trip to the operating room, with the accompanying anesthesia, only one hospital stay and only one course of rehabilitation, albeit, more difficult.
“The first two weeks, the pain is pretty significant, and then particularly in therapy, that the pain is pretty rough,” says Leo.
The disadvantage is there is slightly more risk for complications – 7 percent doing both together compared to 5 percent with a single knee.
“You’re doubling the length of the surgical procedure,” says Dr. Ravasio.
A particular concern is blood clots in not just one, but two legs. These could travel to the lungs, and that can be fatal.
“It puts a bigger strain on the body. You’re learning how to walk again and you’re immobilizing both legs at the same time,” he says.
People with heart disease, lung disease, obesity, and diabetes may do better taking it one knee at a time.
“If you have somebody who may not be able to potentially rehabilitate to the degree that you would like, their risk increases,” Dr. Ravasio says.
Leo’s surgery was five months ago. While he isn’t back to coaching yet, he is back to the elliptical and stationary bicycle and he can walk an hour at a time.
What excites him the most?
“Elimination of the chronic pain,” he says.
With the higher risk and lower reimbursement for doing both at once, it is unlikely to become the “new way” of tackling knee replacement.
But for young, fit patients, it is an option to discuss with your orthopedic surgeon.