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Knee help: deciding whether to get two knee replacements at the same time

For some individuals with knee osteoarthritis (OA), their rheumatologist or family doctor may recommend a knee replacement if other forms of treatment have not improved the joint’s ability to function or failed to prevent further joint damage. A knee replacement is a surgical procedure in which parts of the joint are replaced with artificial material to restore function and ultimately reduce pain. In some cases, where both knees are severely affected, patients might consider getting both knees replaced during the same surgery, a procedure known as a bilateral knee replacement.

A recent story published in MedPage Today, and featured in RheumNow, explored the mixed evidence and experience related to bilateral knee replacement. 

A person putting sunscreen on their knees and hands

Advantages

The primary advantage to getting a combined surgery is that there is only one hospital stay and one recovery/rehabilitation period for both knees. This means less time off work, in pain and needing supportive care. In addition, the combined procedure often costs less for the patient and the provider than having them done at different times. In 2016, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) found that the overall cost of the simultaneous procedure was $20,800 compared to $23,700 for two separate procedures. In Canada, knee replacement surgery, hospital stay and post-surgery care (such as physiotherapy) are covered by provincial healthcare plans. Due to the nature of the healthcare system in the United States, the reduced cost of surgery can make a significant difference for patients.

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