When Should I Get My Knee Replaced?
Planning ahead for your total knee replacement is a smart move for many reasons. You don’t want to walk into your surgeon’s office on a Monday and have the surgery on Wednesday.
Additional planning needs to be done in order for you to be ready for the after effects of the surgery. So how do you know the best time to have your knee replaced? There is no one answer but I do know from seeing patients over 20 years there seems to be a consensus.
The best time of year to have a knee replacement surgery is in January or early February. This time span avoids all major holidays including Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah. For the seasonal regions of the country, having your surgery in this colder time means you are not missing out on any outdoor activities. Use your in home rehab time to prepare for the warmer seasons when your mobility is improved.
Weather As a Factor for Knee Replacement
Of course there are way more factors that can change the answer to a different time of year. As a general rule of thumb I suggest for my patients to time their surgery for a period where they will be inside a lot. Seasonality is important when planning your knee replacement.
In northern cities like New York or for my clients Pittsburgh, this would range from November through March. However, in southern cities like Miami this might be the reverse as the summer months are too hot for outdoor activities.
Would you really want to start normal driving with your new knee just when the weather is getting cold and miserable? Didn’t think so.
Use your time indoors wisely and work on your walking and mobility to best prepare for those outside activities ahead. Take advantage of that inside time, get good quality sleep and rest to properly recover from your knee surgery.
Leaving your home comfortably in the first few weeks after surgery will be a chore. If you have a choice, don’t have your surgery in September just in time to walk out into the ice snow and cold of December and January.
Return to Work and Knee Replacement
For those of you who are still working, planning your knee replacement around your work may be your #1 priority. If you are working an outside job where you are needed during the warm weather days, you should plan for a winter surgery.
If you are a teacher or someone who has the Summer months off, you will likely keep this off time for yourself. In this case, plan for your surgery when you are technically still working so you can have your work cover your absence.
Work a desk job indoors? You have the best setup and likely the full range of time off options depending on your job requirements. Still plan for a good amount of time off as you will not be able to comfortably return to work in the first few weeks.
Insurance Policy As a Factor for Knee Replacement Time of Year
For those of Medicare age and have Medicare as your primary coverage, likely you will have little to no deductible or out of pocket cost. When this is the case and cost of surgery is not a factor, this opens up more options for you in terms of timing.
For those not of Medicare age and using standard insurance, timing your surgery later in the calendar year may help ease your out of pocket cost. Again this depends on the plan you have and whether timing the surgery for late in the year makes much of a financial difference.
You might want to ask your insurance provider what they would recommend in terms of time of year to get the surgery performed. There may be other factors such as authorization or requirements from your doctors to get fully ok’d for surgery which may be easier in certain times of the year.
Vacation Planning Factors For Total Knee Replacement
You will not want to be laid up after surgery just in time to be around friends and family for the holidays. Sitting around the Thanksgiving table for hours will not be an enjoyable experience if you just had your knee replaced. Same thing goes with Christmas, Hanukkah or any other time you want to be around family and friends for many hours.
Do you have a family vacation you really want to go on? Don’t plan your surgery for more than at least 3 months prior to your trip if you want to truly enjoy it. Walking on the beach 1-2 months after a knee replacement probably isn’t the smartest idea if you’re considering that option.
An aspect people don’t realize after surgery is the discomfort of riding in a car for long periods of time. You will not be comfortable or anything longer than a 45 minute car ride for the first month or two after surgery. This will greatly impact your tolerance for long car rides including those that may impact vacation planning.
How Soon Can I Fly on an Airplane After Knee Replacement?
Your surgeon will not allow you to fly in the first month after surgery. The main reason for this the risk of blood clots is much higher in this phase and flying does increase the risk of clot formation. Avoid planning any trip by air in the first month or two after surgery to be safe.
If you need to fly, make sure it is a shorter flight time less than 2 hours maximum. I would request a seat with increased leg room and also the aisle seat is a must so you can get up as you need throughout the flight.
Avoid planning your total knee replacement surgery around where you will be required to fly for the next 3 months. You want to minimize any extra risk after surgery and without question flying would put you at an immediate increased chance of complication.
Reverse Psychology Planning for Your Knee Replacement?
There is a school of thought that the more popular time of year to get your knee replaced, the more difficult to have the best surgeons available. True, the top local surgeons are probably more booked up in the popular winter months.
Does this mean you should look more in the summer months if you live in the northern regions of the country? It certainly goes against my suggestion to maximize your time ‘stuck’ indoors for rehab in the lesser desired months outdoors.
The problem with this line of thinking is that it is not taking into account what’s best for you the patient. I would suggest highly to have your knee replaced when YOU want to have it done, not when the surgeon’s schedule may be lighter.
Final Thoughts on Best Time of Year for Total Knee Replacement
- Plan in the Months of January and February
- Avoid Holidays and Vacation Times
- Use Your Time Indoors to Rehab for the Better Weather Ahead