Is Joint Replacement Surgery an Option for You?
For many, joint pain can be detrimental to the lifestyle they are seeking. Simple tasks like going for a walk or going up and down stairs can cause discomfort and pain that can change the way many are able to live their lives.
If joint pain is impacting your life, it’s important to know that there are options to help you find relief. For severe fractures, bone cancer, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis, your consultant may recommend surgery if less invasive treatments have not helped your condition to improve. Some of those treatments include:
- Braces or other supports
- Anti-inflammatory medicines
- Ice and heat
- Corticosteroid, hyaluronic acid, or platelet-rich plasma joint injections
These treatments may help provide relief, but they don’t solve the underlying cause of the problem. If the pain is severe enough to keep you up at night, surgery may be the best answer.
Will My Age Be a Problem for Joint Replacement Surgery?
Your consultant will consider all factors before moving forward with a joint replacement procedure. Age, weight, chronic conditions, and past surgical complications all play a part in deciding if joint replacement is right for you.
What Happens During Surgery?
You will receive instructions prior to the surgery should you and your consultant decide it’s the best course forward. You may receive preoperative exercises to focus on strengthening certain muscles that will be important for your recovery. You’ll likely be asked to stop eating or drinking for a period before the surgery; your consultant will provide you with details to give you plenty of time to prepare.
A member of the anaesthesiology team will administer medicine to help you relax and numb the joint on the day of the surgery. They will also monitor your vital signs throughout the surgery. Your surgeon will make an incision, remove the damaged joint and replace it with an artificial one. For knee replacements, the procedure will also include fitting a metal cap over the thigh bone (femur). For hip replacements, the surgeon may replace the ball and socket joint in its entirety depending on the patient.
For a full hip replacement, it can take between an hour or two for the surgery to be completed. Knee replacements will also take one to two hours but, if a patient has opted to replace both knees at the same time, the procedure can last longer.
Recovering from a Joint Replacement Surgery:
After your procedure, you will be moved into a recovery area. For some people, their hospital stay will be a few days while others are able to go home sooner. Physiotherapy usually begins the day after the procedure as it’s good to get the joint moving as soon as possible. Until your orthopaedic surgeon decides that you can walk unassisted, you should expect to use crutches or a walker.
During recovery, you can expect to experience some pain as that is a normal part of the process. Your orthopaedic surgeon will recommend medicines to help manage the pain. Most patients are back to work in about six weeks after surgery. The joint function will be near normal about three months post- surgery, save for the occasional stiffness or soreness. But it’s always important to work with your consultant and physiotherapist on determining your own recovery timeline.
What are Some Possible Complications?
With any surgery, there will always be some risk. For joint replacement, these can include:
- Blood clots
- Infection at the site of incision or around the joint
- Dislocation or loosening of the new joint
- Injury to a nearby nerve or blood vessel
Pain, redness or swelling are often the first sign of complications. Fever or chills may also occur. If any of these side effects are experienced, contact your orthopaedic surgeon as soon as possible.