What is Joint Replacement?
Where the Pain Begins
As we age, cartilage, the tissue in our joints that acts as a cushion between bone surfaces, grows brittle and begins to wear away until we have bone rubbing against bone. That rubbing leads to inflammation, pain and stiffness in the joints, also known as arthritis.
Because the knee, hip and ankle are weight-bearing joints, the stresses and strains of living, such as injuries, weight, occupation, and genetics affect how much and how fast the cartilage wears away.
Everyone loses cartilage at a different rate. Moderate degrees of wear can cause intermittent or mild pain, which can often be managed with treatments ranging from over-the-counter or prescription medications to exercise, weight loss and physical therapy.
If, however, cartilage wear and the accompanying pain reach a point where the normal functions of everyday life become difficult, joint replacement surgery - specifically knee or hip - may be the appropriate option.
Joint Replacement Surgery
Joint replacement is a surgical procedure to remove and replace an arthritic or damaged joint with an artificial joint (called a prosthesis).
When preparing for joint replacement surgery:
As with any surgery, there are some pre-operative considerations to keep in mind, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Autologous Blood Donation - donating your own blood before surgery ensures a matched source of blood if needed during or after surgery.
- Exercise - our bodies tend to heal and regain function faster when they are in good physical and cardiovascular condition.
- Medication - before the surgery, discuss with your physician the medications you are currently taking. Some may need to be temporarily discontinued until after the surgery. This determination should be made by your physician or orthopaedist.
- Discharge Planning - as with any surgery, be sure to discuss discharge planning with your physician beforehand. Your discharge plan may include instructions on care of the incision, pain medications, activities, special exercises, and other home care instructions.
- Rehabilitation - patients who have received a total joint replacement can still lead functional, active lifestyles. One major component of many rehabilitation programs is exercise - to restore function, mobility and strength to the affected joint and surrounding muscles. We'll review all of this in your pre-surgical classes.
Consult your physician for more specific pre-operative planning for your individual condition and type of joint replacement surgery.
Possible complications associated with joint replacement surgery:
Although a vast majority of joint replacement surgeries are successful, complications may still occur, including, but not limited to, the following:
- wound infection
- infection around the prosthesis
- blood clotting
- malfunction of the prosthesis (may be caused by wear and tear, breakage, dislocation, or loosening)
- nerve injury (although rare, nerves in the surrounding area may become damaged during the surgery)