Total joint replacement programs are growing in size and capabilities to help people with damaged joints get back to doing the things they love. New surgical techniques are improving the prospects for those needing joint replacement. Twenty years ago it was common for patients to stay in the hospital for as long as two weeks after surgery. Today the average stay is three days and patients are out of bed and working on mobility the day of surgery.
When thick tissue connects two or more bones, they form a joint. A smooth layer, called cartilage, covers the bone ends of a joint. Normal cartilage allows for nearly frictionless, pain-free movement. However, damaged cartilage can cause pain so severe that a person will avoid using the joint. Naturally, this will weaken the surrounding muscles and make movement even more difficult.
Joint replacement involves removing the arthritic or damaged joint and replacing it with an artificial joint. The best candidates for surgery are those with healthy hearts and lungs who are at a healthy weight and motivated to do well.
There Are More Options Today Than There Used To Be
There are more options than ever before. In the past, the materials were mainly metal on plastic. Now, a plastic socket replaces a damaged one in the pelvis. In an arthritic knee, the damaged ends of the bones and cartilage are replaced with plastic, ceramic or metal surfaces that are shaped to restore movement.
The New Anterior Approach
In an arthritic hip, the damaged ball is replaced by a metal ball and stem fitted into the femur. There is a new anterior approach where the surgeon approaches from the front, rather than the side, and is able to replace the hip without cutting the muscles. It reduces post-op pain and allows for a quicker recovery. Patients have less pain, go home earlier and can walk sooner than before.
While this approach has its benefits, not everyone is a candidate. Those who are overweight, had previous hip surgeries and those whose bones have a shape not compatible with the replacement are not good candidates.
Although it is as sterile environment as possible – as with any surgery – there are risks involved. Although rare, there is a chance of blood clots as well as a risk of infection. Naturally, the hospital will have procedures to prevent infection before you enter the operating room, while in the operating room and while in recovery. Upon release from the hospital, the patient will also receive instructions to help prevent infection.
Results From Joint Replacement Surgery
Results from total knee and hip joint replacement varies among patients, depending on their condition before surgery, their commitment to physical therapy, their willingness to follow the doctor’s instructions and other factors. However, around six weeks most will use a walker for one or two weeks and be comfortable when walking and engaging in low impact activities, such as golf.
The first step in trying to control hip and knee pain is decreased activity, anti-inflammatory medications and injections. If these things have been tried without relief, the next step is to talk to an orthopedic surgeon about whether total joint replacement surgery is the best option for you.