Joint Replacement

Joint replacement means removing part or all of a damaged joint and installing hardware to allow the limb to move without pain or limitations. The replacement hardware is called a prosthesis. These are made of plastic, metal, ceramic, or a combination of these materials. Most joint replacements are performed to treat damage from arthritis to the knees or hips. Orthopedic surgeons do the procedure under general anesthesia.

The decision to replace a joint depends on several factors:

  • How bad are the symptoms? Moderate to severe pain, stiffness, and limited function of the joint may indicate the need for a new joint.
  • How bad is the damage to the joint? An x-ray or other imaging test can show if the bone and cartilage in the joint have deteriorated. The joint may also become misaligned. Moderate to severe joint damage is an indication for joint replacement.
  • Does the joint problem limit daily activities and compromise a person's quality of life? This, too, indicates that joint replacement may be beneficial.

Like any major operation, joint replacement surgery carries the risk of possible complications. For example, there are small risks that you may have a reaction to the anesthesia, develop a blood clot, or contract an infection.

Age by itself does not prevent a person from getting a new joint, but being overweight or having a chronic health condition, such as heart disease, might raise the risks. It's also possible for the prosthesis to break, making it necessary to do a so-called revision procedure to fix it.

A hospital stay of a day or two is typical for knee or hip joint replacement. Physical therapy then helps the muscles around the new joint to get strong. Joint hardware can last 15 to 20 years or more, depending on the type and the person's level of physical activity.

Joint Replacement Articles

Before you consider a joint replacement-what you need to know

Joint replacement surgery can help women with degenerative joint disease get around more easily. However, less invasive options are available, including steroid injections and exercise. When considering a joint replacement, women need to ask their doctors many questions, including the recovery time and the number of procedures they’ve performed.  (Locked) More »

Avoiding knee or hip surgery

Losing weight and strengthening muscles may help stave off joint replacement. Stronger muscles are better able to absorb pressure that is placed on the joints they support. The key muscles to strengthen for knee health are the quadriceps and hamstrings. The key muscles to strengthen for hip health are the gluteus muscles and the flexors. Weight loss reduces pressure on the joints as well. A weight-loss program should include enough calories, carbohydrates, and protein to provide energy for the body and build muscle. More »

New ways to beat osteoarthritis pain

Progress on new treatments for osteoarthritis has been slow, in part because the disease damages joints very gradually over time and is therefore hard to study. Researchers are starting to change the way they approach treatments, looking at the entire joint, instead of just the cartilage. Potential new therapies include the osteoporosis drug strontium ranelate and stem cell therapy. For now, pain relievers, joint injections of corticosteroids and hyaluronic acid, and joint resurfacing or replacement are the best treatment options. More »

How to get ready for a new knee

Total knee replacement can return people with bad knees to levels of pain-free functioning they have not enjoyed in years. But the benefits of this major elective surgery come with risks and costs. Total knee replacement requires general anesthesia, so serious complications are always possible. Knee replacement involves a prolonged recovery, requiring months of rigorous physical therapy to regain full strength and range of motion. People planning on getting a new knee can increase the chance of a full and speedy recovery by doing physical therapy on the affected knee and leg before surgery. (Locked) More »

Easier way to help your hip?

A procedure known as hip resurfacing is emerging as an alternative to hip replacement. In a total hip replacement, the damaged surface of the hip's socket is removed, along with the ball at the top of the hip bone (femur) and a bit of the femur itself. The ball and neck of the femur are then replaced with prosthetic components. In hip resurfacing, the surgeon places a prosthetic cap on the femoral head, preserving the neck, and resurfaces the acetabulum. Insurance pays for both procedures and recovery time is the same: three days in the hospital, followed by 4–6 weeks of physical therapy. But not everyone has the right anatomy for hip resurfacing, and because of its track record, total hip replacement is best for people over 65. (Locked) More »

How to avoid joint surgery

Before have surgery to replace an aching joint with an artificial one, try extending the life of your own natural joints by losing weight, protecting your joints, trying medical treatment, and getting effective pain relief. (Locked) More »