Knee and hip replacement surgeries are on the rise for people who are fed up with the pain and dysfunction caused by arthritis. Although there are many types of arthritis, some of them are slowly progressive while others cause distinctive joint changes more rapidly. All forms of arthritis are associated with pain and swelling and most can be improved with total joint replacement. When a joint has worn to the point that it no longer performs its function, an artificial joint, or prosthesis, may take its place.
Why do I need a joint replacement?
The number of knee replacements performed each year has doubled over the past 20 years, and by 2030 they are expected to increase another 600 percent. A new study suggests that obesity is the driving force behind knee replacement surgery for most patients; every pound of extra weight adds three pounds of pressure on the knees.
People typically undergo knee replacement surgery when they can no longer live with the pain caused by their arthritis. It is done after more conservative treatments like medication, physical therapy, weight loss and more minor procedures fail. The goal of the surgery is to reduce disability, and allow people to be active again without pain.
Similarly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 300,000 hip replacements are performed each year in patients who have damaged the ball and socket joint, and experience pain or limited activity despite other treatments. The most common cause of damage is osteoarthritis, which causes pain, swelling and limited motion in the joints. Individuals with hip injuries or conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, may also be good candidates for joint replacement.
As with any surgery, there are risks of complications. Complications are problems that may arise during or after surgery that may make one patient’s course of treatment different from others. Possible complications may include but are not limited to:
- Blood clots, phlebitis/pulmonary embolism
- Blood loss
- Stiffness or persistent pain
- Scar tissue
- Neurovascular changes
- Underlying medical problems
Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. While there are risks associated with any surgery, your healthcare team is trained to take every precaution to avoid the possibility of complications, providing the safest environment for a successful joint replacement surgery.
The rate of recovery and success of joint replacement surgery is determined by activity level, health, age, degree of joint deterioration and risk of infection. After surgery, you should expect to spend a few days in the hospital and meet with an occupational and a physical therapist who will help guide you through recovery.
Important factors in recovery from joint replacement surgery include preventive exercises, proper nutrition and infection control. Typically, physical therapists will create discharge goals with patients, such as walking 100 feet with a rolling walker and climbing and descending a set of stairs with supervision, to ensure that patients are on the road to recovery when it is time to be discharged from the hospital.