The ABCs of Joint Replacement Surgery
February 21, 2023Health News
Find out if you are a candidate for hip, knee or shoulder replacement
When it comes to aging, one of the common complaints is stiff and painful joints. Given that, joint replacement surgery has been a popular, and effective, way to address these issues.
These surgeries have increased quickly. More than 1 million knee and hip replacements were done in 2021, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). That number is expected to hit 4 million by 2030.
The most common joints to be replaced are, unsurprisingly, the knee, hip and shoulder. Due to the everyday stress on these joints, the surrounding cartilage begins to wear and tear. When this happens, there’s no cushion to support the healthy joint – and then comes the pain and discomfort.
Joint replacement surgery is performed in a hospital or outpatient surgical center. A surgeon begins by removing injured or worn-down cartilage around the existing joint, followed by the replacement of the existing joint with an artificial one, what’s called a prosthesis. Prosthetic joints can be made of metal, ceramic or heavy-duty medical plastic. The kind of joint is chosen according to a patient’s activity level, age, weight and health.
Are You a Candidate?
The most common reasons for joint replacement surgery are, simply, pain. Candidates for joint replacement surgery usually have severe joint pain caused by inflammation or something equally damaging, including:
- Arthritis (especially rheumatoid or osteoarthritis)
- Severe fractures
- Joint issues (ie, hip dysplasia)
- Lack of blood supply to the joint
If the patient hasn’t responded to prior treatment and/or has irreversible damage, there is even more reason to pursue replacement.
The most common risks of joint replacement surgery:
- Nerve damage
- Blood clots
- Prosthetic malfunction (trouble with the new joint)
Pre- and Post-Surgery Activities
If you are preparing for surgery, in the weeks before the procedure, you should:
- Cut down or quit smoking. Smoking can delay recovery and increase the risk of complications.
- Strengthen your body. Ask your doctor for recommended exercises.
- Attend all doctor’s appointments leading up to the procedure date. Your doctor will conduct important tests and evaluations to ensure that you’re ready for surgery. They may even ask you to take blood tests or screenings.
Day before surgery:
- Take a bath or shower, to reduce the risk of infection.
- Avoid eating or drinking anything after midnight.
- Prepare an overnight bag to bring to the hospital. Pack any essential information like your ID, insurance card, personal care items and a change of clothes.
- Rest. Avoid any physical activity.
- Keep your incisions clean and properly dressed to avoid infection.
- Take any prescribed or recommended pain medication from your doctor.
How Long Does a Joint Replacement Last?
It depends on a person’s activity level, weight and overall health. A good estimate is 10 to 15 years. After a joint replacement is worn down, it needs to be replaced, what’s called joint revision surgery.
Someone who is very active, is overweight or simply puts more stress on their prosthetic is more likely to experience premature wear. If you begin experiencing sudden pain or discomfort, let your doctor know so they can evaluate you.
If you’re due for a joint revision, your doctor can walk you through the next steps.