Tips to Kick Start Your Research

A Brighton, Utah, ski patroller with two artificial knees assured me there’s definitely life – and skiing – after knee replacement. Her unbounded success motivated me to launch into research. I’m glad I did my homework. What I learned affected the direction I took, the outcome and ultimately my success. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Metal Knee Model: Is there one in your future? Credit:  Harriet Wallis
Metal Knee Model: Is there one in your future?
Credit: Harriet Wallis

Don’t be duped. Learn about the whole knee replacement process. Don’t be duped by a well-meaning friend who says: “I’d go to Doctor Smith. He’s such a nice man.”

That would be as stupid as buying a car because your friend says: “I’d buy a Honda. It’s such a nice car.”

Do your own research

Get on the phone. Call athletes you even vaguely know who might have some insights on artificial body parts, surgery, and rehab. I called several ski instructors, an operating room nurse, and a 75-year-old mogul skier. I picked their brains .

I also plopped down at the table with ski patrollers while they ate breakfast in the lodge. My question to all of them: What should I learn about?         

They’ll all have different angles, so write their answers down or they’ll become scrambled mush in your head.

Knees, glues and cadavers. With clues you gather from the athletes about what’s important, get on the internet. Do not start on the internet. There’s so much information you’ll get overwhelmed and quit.

Read up on bone-to-metal adhesives, quad-sparing technique, risks, new knee limitations and more. Be sure to separate information from marketing hype. If you have the stomach for it, I recommend that you watch a YouTube video of a knee replacement on a cadaver.  Warning: it’s not for the faint of heart.

Find the top docs. Use the internet to review potential surgeons. They’ll all have illustrious credentials, so do some creative screening. Call each one’s office and ask what his/her specialty is. The phone-answerer should be well informed. Listen carefully. If you get mixed vibes or uncertainty as to whether this is truly a knee replacement guru, it should be a red flag.

Get the inside track. Physical therapists work with patients after surgery. They have refined knowledge about which surgeons give the best outcomes. But they might be reluctant to blurt out a doctor’s name. You’ll probably have to phrase it subtly: “Do you think Doctor A’s outcome is better than Doctor B’s?”

Good luck with your research. Check back for the next installment: Questions for surgeons and how to interview them.

 Note: This is a five- part series in which I describe my knee replacement journey with tips to guide you if you’re anticipating knee replacement. Part 1: Inspired by a ski patroller with artificial knees. This is Part 2. Upcoming will be Part 3: Interviewing surgeons and questions to ask. Part 4: How I found the right doctor for me. Part 5: Rehab and why to love it.

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