When your knee, shoulder or hip pain is unbearable and physical therapy and medicines no longer help, there is an option.
More than 1 million joint replacements are performed in the United States each year. Whether its full or partial replacement, the surgical procedure involves removing a damaged joint and inserting a prosthetic one.
While hip and knee replacements are the more commonly known surgeries, ankle, wrist, shoulder and elbow joints also can be supplanted.
The decision to have joint replacement surgery should be taken very seriously, and after consultation with your physician. Several tests need to be conducted and your overall health must be evaluated before going into the operating room.
Here are some answers to common questions about total joint replacement surgery from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons:
What Condition Triggers a Joint Replacement Option?
In many cases, joint pain is caused by damage to the cartilage that lines the ends of the bones (articular cartilage)—either from arthritis, a fracture or another condition. If nonsurgical treatments like medications, physical therapy and changes to your everyday activities do not relieve your pain and disability, you may be a candidate for total joint replacement.
What Exactly Happens During the Surgery?
The damaged cartilage and bone are removed from your joint and replaced with prosthetic components made of metal, plastic or ceramic. The prosthesis mimics the shape and movement of a natural joint. For example, in an arthritic hip, the damaged ball (the upper end of the femur) is replaced with a metal ball attached to a metal stem that is fitted into the femur, and a plastic socket is implanted into the pelvis, replacing the damaged socket.
What Are the Risks?
Any surgery presents risks such as infection, blood clots and nerve injury. While joint replacement devices are much more advanced these days, there is a possibility of loosening or dislocation. These risks are minimized by today’s more advanced surgery and post-surgery procedures. However, joint replacement is considered major surgery. That’s why you and your doctor should carefully review and agree on the expectations of your outcome.
How Long Will It Take to Recover?
Your ability to use your new joint will depend on the ability to work through post-operative pain and the length of time it takes for your tissues to heal. Your age, weight and overall health are factors as well. Generally, physical therapy begins shortly after your surgery to maximize your range of motion and to promote overall healing. Pain usually subsides gradually over several weeks. Because exercise is key to your recovery, a physical therapist will prescribe a workout regimen to promote joint strength.
What Is the Long Term Prognosis of Replaced Joints?
Again, great strides have been made in the quality and durability of prosthetic joints today. You can expect the devices to last for many years – which means you should be more pain free and have a vastly improved quality of life. One recent study showed that 96 percent of knee replacement parts last more than 20 years.
For more information to your questions about joint replacement, contact Johnson Memorial Orthopedic Specialists at 317.346.3100.