Purpose: To explore how the process of undergoing and recovering from knee replacement surgery alters patients' experiences and use of their support networks.
Methods: Ten patients having knee replacement surgery for osteoarthritis were invited to take part in in-depth interviews prior to surgery and 2-4 weeks, 6 and 12 months post-operatively. Transcripts were analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.
Results: Three superordinate themes were identified: (1) relationships with health professionals over the knee replacement journey; (2) implications for informal relationships and support networks and (3) providing support to others.
Conclusions: Transformation from a person with osteoarthritis to someone recovering from a surgical intervention can lead to alterations in the source, type and level of support people receive from others, and can also change the assistance that they themselves are able to offer. Findings highlight the value of the concept of interdependence to our understanding of participants' experiences. Activity undertaken by informal support networks assists participants to cope with the consequences of osteoarthritis and surgery, and fills in the gap when more formal support is lacking. However, it is essential that provision of care is individually tailored and that formal support is adequate at times when informal support networks are unavailable. Implications for Rehabilitation Activity undertaken by informal support networks can help patients who undergo knee replacement cope with the consequences of their operation; filling the void when support from health professionals is lacking. Contact with health professionals after surgery enhances confidence and offers reassurance; helping to facilitate the recovery process from knee replacement. Findings highlight, from patients' own perspectives, the potential value of post-operative physiotherapy received soon after surgery and the possible role of long-term follow up. Missing or ill-timed support from health professionals can have negative psychosocial consequences for patients going through joint replacement.
Keywords: Healthcare; knee replacement; orthopaedics; relationships; social support.