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

When is it time for a knee replacement?

Deciding whether knee replacement surgery is necessary depends on the symptoms, the extent of joint damage, how much the joint problems limit daily activities and how well other treatments are working. Consulting with an orthopedic surgeon or a rheumatologist can help people make the best decision. (Locked) More »

Helpful or harmful? Weighing last resorts before knee surgery

When trying to avoid surgery for knee osteoarthritis, one must be wary of certain treatments to relieve pain. Some treatments are ineffective or potentially dangerous, such as prolotherapy or ozone injections, stem cell treatments, and implanted shock absorbers. Other treatments—such as acupuncture or platelet-rich plasma injections—might work, but the evidence is mixed. Steroid or hyaluronic injections can provide pain relief. But the safest and most proven approaches for treating knee osteoarthritis are weight loss and muscle strengthening. More »

No place like home for knee replacement rehab

A home-based rehab program after a total knee replacement is equal to an initial inpatient rehab in terms of recovery speed, says a recent study. The researchers speculated that the home program helps because it encourages patients to be more active and independent from the get-go after surgery, which may help recovery in the long run. More »

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 »