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Doctor examining man's knee for replacement surgery

5 Things to Know About Hip and Knee Replacement Surgery

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Hip and knee replacements are elective surgeries with high success rates. Both are common procedures that can reduce pain and allow you to move better. 

People who need a hip replacement or knee replacement generally have symptoms — like inflammation, stiffness and soreness — around those joints. They also have significant arthritis, which doctor can determine with an X-ray.

Arthritis is basically a worn-out joint. 

Joints are covered with cartilage. And if that cartilage wears out, you can experience pain, stiffness, swelling and limited function. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is usually related to wear over time. Previous injuries can accelerate the development of osteoarthritis.

Another type of arthritis is autoimmune or inflammatory arthritis, in which the body essentially attacks its own joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most well known form of autoimmune arthritis.

How to know if you need joint replacement surgery

First, the whole patient must be evaluated. That includes assessing medical history for risk factors and potential complicating factors, including smoking, height-weight ratio, infection history, use of other medications and more.

After a patient is examined and X-rays are reviewed, the patient and their doctor will review non-surgical options and what they have done so far to ease their pain. Nonsurgical options include medications, injections or physical therapy.

If the patient is still experiencing pain and loss of function after these alternatives, then surgery can be considered.

How joint replacement surgery works

"Resurfacing" is a more accurate word than "replacement." 

For a knee replacement, the cartilage is replaced with a metal cap on the end of the femur and a metal and plastic piece on top of the tibia. The kneecap is typically resurfaced as well. 

For a hip replacement, a metal socket with plastic liner is implanted in the pelvis, and a metal stem with a ceramic ball is typically implanted in the femur.

Joint replacement is highly successful

More than 90% of people who get hip and knee replacement surgery recover well. Most people are back at work full-time four to six weeks after surgery.

While some people will be able to return to their previous active lifestyle with no problem, it’s important to remember that manmade materials do have a limited lifespan, and there is the potential to wear them out. However, over 90% of joint replacements are doing well at 15 to 20 years and more.

What to expect in the hospital

Most joint replacement patients will only need one night in the hospital. Some even go home the same day.

Instead of general anesthesia, spinal anesthesia or nerve blocks are used for surgery. That means patients don’t need a breathing tube and experience better pain control, and less confusion and nausea after surgery.

This is one of the biggest innovations in joint replacement surgery.

What to expect from the healing process

Patients typically are ready to walk up and down the hall, up and down stairs and get in and out of a car before they leave the hospital.

Before they go home, physical therapy is arranged.

Most of the healing is in the first month, and people seem to feel like they are turning the corner and getting back to normal at three to four months. Most people continue to improve for a full year afterward.

Dr. Willard Moore III is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hip and knee replacements. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Moore.

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