Sunday, March 06, 2011

Waiting for Surgery

I'm in a strange, limbo-like state.  In two days, on Tuesday March 8, I will get my left knee revised - that's the word they use when they have to take out an artificial knee and put in a new one.  I'm bored; I've had to stop all my usual activities, because for at least 3 months after Tuesday, my primary activity will be rehabbing the new knee.  Having done this twice before, I'm not looking forward to it.  I've also had to stop all my NSAID pain pills for the last 3 weeks, because any trace of them makes bleeding worse; and trust me, acetominaphen (generic for Tylenol for those who don't read the fine print) is not an acceptable substitute.

I also feel betrayed.  I was told these things were supposed to last 15-20 years; this is just over 5 years.  I've recently discovered there are at least three recall actions out on three different artificial knee implants, from two different manufacturers.  And I don't know whether they affect me or not, because when the failing implant was put in, I didn't ask what brand it was.  I've never gotten a recall notice; I don't know if I have a recalled device or not.  I do know that my good knee has an implant from Zimmer, manufacturer of two of the recalled items; because in 2001 I asked, what product will you use?  I didn't ask in 2005.  Mistake.  I've asked my surgeon this time but he hasn't responded.  Yet.

I may be letting my anxiety get the better of me, but it's dawning on me that when I decided to have the original surgeries, I was signing up for an unknown number of repeat procedures, at unknown intervals, which are turning out to be much shorter than I expected (and hoped).  I thought I'd be able to walk without a cane again, and for about 4 years, I could.  I read some very scary stuff about revision surgery - and then I realized it was posted by the lawyers in the class action lawsuits related to the recalls.  Oh.  I found a description on a medical site that was much more balanced and less frightening.  But I'm still not happy.  Every surgery carries major risks.  But there really isn't a choice now - I can barely walk on that leg.  Wish me luck.


  1. Arrgh. Tell 'em you refuse to be anesthetized until they tell you the brand name of the replacement joint, and that you want the serial number as well.

  2. i have a zimmer in the right working well at 4 years and a johnson/johnson in the left- not so well but only 8 months in

    good luck with the surgery

  3. Good luck, and take care of yourself. Tammy and I send our best wishes.

  4. @creditmobilA - I have a zimmer in my right knee going strong at 10 years. That's what's so annoying. Thanks for the good wishes everyone!

  5. I'm writing this obviously AFTER you've had the surgery, so I can't very well "wish you luck" after the fact. Nevertheless, I hope it DID go well.

    My knees aren't perfect, but at least I still have them. In 1986 I was helping the plumber in the basement put in a new water heater. (Maybe I've told you this anecdote before--whatever.) Anyway, we finished and were resting sitting on the edge of the drop off into the crawl space and I rose to climb out. I was stricken in that moment with the most intense pain I have ever felt in my life, moaning in agony "my god, what have I done?" Turned out I'd "sheared" a good chuck of my cartilage off. My knee swelled up like a balloon--not an exaggeration!--and I hobbled off to the doc. He told me the swelling prevented him from feeling anything, offered me a cheap wooden cane, and sent me home. In about a month, I could see there was a rather large chunk (about the size of a silver dollar) literally "floating" around beside my knee cap. This thing would slip "under" the edge of the joint from time to time, causing a hitch, but otherwise the pain subsided, and I found walking increasingly easy, and normal.

    To make a long story short, it's believed by some doctors that these "fragments" are "dissolved" or get rearranged within the knee joint. I never did have surgery, and I've done very nicely ever since (25 years now since it occurred).

    I researched this stuff, as you've done, and discovered that knee replacement procedures, once they've been initiated, often lead to multiple procedures (as in your case), and that joint deterioration actually tends to increase with each invasion. Which is why, despite the occasional "trick-knee" stab of pain I get when running or walking up long flights of stairs, I've chosen not to go that route. At 63, I think I've beaten the odds, because my knees still feel great.

  6. Anonymous2:40 PM

    hi hedera, how's your surgery? i'd like to share this to you friends, as i come across reading your comments, i see Zimmer and J&J.. which is your choice of your knee-replacement device. However, these manufacturing companies like Zimmer has been facing a lot of FDA recalls lately. It was even scrutinized by Senator Grassley too. They call it Zimmer NexGen Recall. Guys, if you think your knee implant has been failed, consumer protection laws protect your rights. You are actually entitled for a compensation. Just be extra careful .. especially to you hedera.. and creditmobila.

  7. Anonymous, thanks for your interest and your comments. I know about the Zimmer NexGen Recall, but I've also done enough research to know that the implant which I just had replaced, although a Zimmer, was NOT one of the devices under recall. (Which explains why I never got a notice.) My surgeon provided me with the 2005 details and the additional information that my failed device actually has one of Zimmer's highest long-term success rates. If I am entitled to any compensation, it isn't from Zimmer.

  8. Anonymous4:12 PM

    Good to hear that hedera.. At least, yours is not the one that was mentioned in Zimmer NexGen Knee Recall. But if your knee will fail, who's going to blame then? some says its the surgeon while a few says its Zimmer or the manufacturer. May your surgery be successful!

  9. I think it was, Anonymous, and thanks for the good wishes. I'm actually recovering quite well, see later posts.