PLAINS TOWNSHIP — Dr. James Mattucci doesn’t tell patients they need knee replacement surgery.
“I tell people, when you’re ready, you’ll come. You’ll tell me when you’re ready to get your knee done,” Mattucci explained during a recent seminar on joint replacement sponsored by Commonwealth Health at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
About 20 attendees listened attentively as Mattucci explained most candidates for the surgery have osteoarthritis which he described as a wearing away of cartilage and bone at a joint. “It’s like developing a pot hole,” he said.
Initial treatments can include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, ice, braces and injections.
“I’ve had people I’ve injected for seven, eight, nine years,” Mattucci said, citing an example of one man who put off surgery for about 10 years by taking thrice-yearly injections.
But when pain becomes too great, or range of mobility so limited it affects your quality of life, you may want to replace your problem knee.
To determine if you’re a good candidate for total knee arthroplasty, or replacement, Mattucci said, it’s best to talk to a doctor face-to-face rather than rely on “what everybody says.”
Bringing along a relative or friend to help you ask questions and remember the answers is a good idea, said the surgeon, who performs about 150 knee replacements annually.
“Come in with your wife, your daughter, your significant other,” he advised. “Come with a friend or neighbor. Two heads are better than one.”
Thanks to better strategies for anesthesia, pain medication and physical therapy, Mattucci said, knee-replacement patients today tend to have a faster recovery time than just a few years ago.
“Most people walk the day of surgery and in 24 or 48 hours they go home,” he said. “It used to take seven to 10 days.”
But, he cautioned the group, don’t compare your progress to someone else’s.
“Ten different people will have 10 different rates of improvement,” he said. “Most people are doing ‘pretty good’ by six weeks and ‘really good’ by 12 weeks.”
Julie Saba, 82, of Hanover Township, hopes she’ll soon be among those people who report feeling better and moving more easily with a new knee.
“I’m calling tomorrow to make an appointment,” she said, adding Mattucci is the surgeon who handled her sister-in-law’s knee surgery. “She’s doing great.”
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT
For younger people with no signs of osteoarthritis, what is the best way to try to stave off future problems?
“If you have a choice between being active or inactive,” Dr. James Mattucci said, “active is better.”
Because extra weight adds stress to the joints, he said, keep your weight within normal range.