Joint Replacement What to expect

Joint replacement surgery is a procedure in which the dysfunctional or the damaged joint surface is replaced with an orthopedic prosthesis (an artificial body part). The treatment is to be considered when the dysfunction is not alleviated by less-invasive therapies.

In a normal joint, bones have a smooth, glistening surface made of a substance called articular cartilage. Present on the ends of the bone, the cartilage allows one bone to glide easily against another. Moreover, joints are lubricated by a thin layer of fluid known as synovial fluid. This acts like oil in an engine to keep moving parts gliding smoothly. When the cartilage wears out or is damaged, problems develop and joints often become stiff and painful – the procedure is known as arthritis. In some cases, it may be possible to treat arthritic joints surgically, including “joint replacement” procedures.

In the procedure, the surgeon (an orthopaedic) may not remove the whole joint, but will only replace or fix the damaged parts.  These new parts may be made of special metal or plastic (certain forms of polyethylene) or specific kinds of carbon-coated implants. The new parts allow the joints to move again with little or no pain.

The doctor may suggest a joint replacement to improve how you live. Replacing a joint can relieve pain and help you move and feel better. The most common joints to be replaced are hips and knees. Other joints that can be replaced include the shoulders, fingers, ankles, and elbows.

The Surgery

Each surgery is different. How long it takes depends on how badly the joint is damaged and how the surgery is done. To replace a knee or a hip takes about 2 hours, unless there are complicating factors. After surgery, you will be moved to a recovery room.

With knee or hip surgery, you will probably need to stay in the hospital for a few days. The doctors will determine how long you stay in the hospital. After hip or knee replacement, you will often stand or begin walking the day of surgery. At first, you will need a support like a walker or crutches. You may have some temporary pain in the new joint because your muscles are weak from not being used. Also, your body is healing. The pain can be helped with medicines and should end in a few weeks.

Pros and Cons

The main and most common reason to have a joint replacement is pain relief. During a hip or knee replacement, a surgeon removes the painful, damaged surfaces of the joint and replaces them with plastic or metal implants. This gets rid of the pain, because the diseased cartilage and bone are no longer there.

  • Joint replacement may be the right choice if you’re in a lot of pain and other treatments haven’t helped enough. But you want to be sure the joint is the true source of pain. There could be an instance when the source could be something other than the joint itself, even if arthritis is visible on an MRI. For this you need to consult medical experts from reputed healthcare centers. Getting a second opinion is also advisable.
  • If you actually have nerve or muscle pain, a joint replacement won’t help, your doctor can tell the difference by doing a careful physical exam and by asking you questions about your pain. Again, you need to be cautious if a doctor prescribes a hip or knee replacement without doing a physical exam.
  • A joint replacement can cure pain, but it can’t restore the hip or knee you had when you were younger. People shouldn’t expect to move the joint the way they did 20 or 30 years ago.
  • Consider a joint replacement if pain is interfering with how you want to live your daily life.
  • Follow your surgeon’s and therapist’s directions carefully; excessive use or “overdoing it” can damage the new joint.

Artificial joints should not be done when:

  • Muscles or tendons that normally would move the involved joint are damaged and cannot be repaired to allow a new joint to work properly.
  • There is an active infection in the involved joint.
  • There are problems with skin or bone quality.

Be sure to call your surgeon if you experience a sudden increase in pain or swelling. You may always contact us at if you have questions related to any such issues.

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