Bilateral knee replacement surgery means that both knees are replaced at the same time. It’s relatively uncommon to have the arthritis in both knees reach the same degree at the same time where a bilateral would be a consideration. But in those cases the decision to have a bilateral replacement done is one of convenience since having one newly operated knee and one knee still painful and stiff from arthritis can make for a more difficult recovery.
Before committing to the surgery, patients should consider the pros and the cons of consenting to the bilateral knee surgery. Bilateral knee replacement is a much longer surgery. One knee takes about 1½ to 2 hrs therefore a bilateral will take 3-4 hours. This is a long time on the table and a long anesthetic which might not be well tolerated by physically compromised patients (such as those with cardiovascular problems, pulmonary disease or are a frail 80+).
The very early physical rehabilitation offered in recovery can be hampered for bilateral patients by having two legs that are difficult to move, lift and bend. But you will be able to bear weight on them more than adequately.
Even more than a single knee replacement surgery, bilateral knee replacement surgery requires the patient to have a strong home team (either hired nursing and therapeutic support or household members). The physical and emotional support necessary for several weeks following a bilateral surgery is vital to achieving recovery.
image credit: Peter Stevens