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

Arthroscopic Surgery

Arthroscopic surgery refers to procedures in which surgeons operate on joints through small incisions. This is in contrast to the single large incision used in traditional open surgery. Using an arthroscope, surgeons can illuminate and magnify the internal structure of joints. An arthroscope is a thin, tubular instrument. It contains a light source and specialized lenses. (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 »

New knee helps your heart

Adults with osteoarthritis face lower odds of developing heart failure by having a total knee replacement. The procedure allows the recipients to exercise again, which can lead to better heart health. (Locked) More »