Joint Replacement Surgery, What Exactly Is It?

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If you or someone you know is considering undergoing a total joint replacement you probably have a lot of questions. A total joint replacement is a major surgery but can lead to a much better quality of life.

The human body has many joints but typically a total joint replacement is recommended for the knee, hip, elbow and shoulder joints. This can be for any number of reasons such as injury to the joint or complications from arthritis or other illnesses. When these joints don’t work properly (restricting movement and or causing intense pain) a physician will suggest physical therapy or medication. If those don’t prove effective they will proceed to surgery.

The surgery itself usually lasts a few hours. The patient is put under general anesthesia and then the damaged cartilage and bone is removed and replaced with a prosthetic.  The prosthetic mimics the movement of the old joint and can be made out of metal, plastic, or ceramic. Once the prosthetic is in place the patient is sutured and bandaged up and wheeled out to recover. Some joint replacements are outpatient procedures, which means that soon after the surgery the patient is allowed to leave the facility and return home to rest. In many cases, the new joint is usable (though gently) soon after surgery. The average prosthetic can last for 10-15 years.

The recovery time varies, but typically if there are no complications patients can feel mostly back to normal in a few weeks. During the recovery process using ice, doing gentle exercises and avoiding alcohol and smoking are all recommended to speed the healing process. Pain medication is also usually prescribed as the body is usually very sore post-surgery.

Each surgery will be unique depending on which joint is being replaced and the individual’s health history but overall the success rate of a total joint replacement is high. Have a discussion with your doctor to see if it’s right for you.


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