Misconceived expectations: Patient reflections on the total knee replacement journey
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Introduction: Fifty per cent of patients consent for total knee replacement (TKR) with unrealistic expectations about what it involves and can achieve. A framework is needed to help surgeons identify key knowledge gaps and misconceptions that can be targeted during the informed consent process. In this qualitative study, we explored knowledge gaps and misconceptions by asking patients to reflect on their expectations along the TKR journey.
Methods: Eligible adults were ≥18 years, 12-month post-TKR and had completed a validated expectations questionnaire pre-TKR as part of a joint replacement registry. To capture a variety of perspectives, people with a range of pre-TKR expectation scores were invited. In interviews, participants reflected on anticipated and actual experiences and unexpected experiences they had along the way. Transcripts were analysed through inductive thematic analysis. Recruitment ceased when thematic saturation was reached. Ethics Approval: Ethical approval for this study was granted by the St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne Ethics Committee (LRR 077/18).
Results: In the final sample (n = 20; 50% female; median age = 72 years; contralateral TKR = 11), all participants described instances where their anticipated and actual experiences diverged, including high expectations of improvements in pain/function (pre-surgical optimism), lacking awareness about anaesthetic procedures (perioperative misunderstandings), feeling unprepared for the length of the recovery period (post-operative misestimations) and trying to make sense of ongoing functional limitations (long-term misattributions).
Discussion and Conclusion: These findings are captured in a preliminary framework of therapeutic misconception. Although future research is needed to test this framework prospectively in larger, more generalisable samples, surgeons can consider these key knowledge gaps and misconceptions when consenting for TKR.
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