Joint replacement surgery is performed when other remedies, such as physical therapy and medication, have not alleviated joint pain or improved the joint’s range of motion. The three most common joint replacement surgeries are to the hip, knee and shoulder. These procedures are helping people with joint problems live pain-free, active lives. Joint replacement surgery is less invasive today than it ever has been in the past. Incisions are smaller, fewer muscles and tendons are disrupted, and recovery times are quicker.
The procedure has a strong track record for safety and success, becoming one of the most reliable procedures in any area of medicine over the past 30 years. More than 95% of artificial joints last 15 to 20 years or more after the procedure, depending on how much pressure you are putting on the joint over time.
If you suffer from chronic joint pain that is inhibiting you from completing normal daily activities, replacement of damaged cartilage or a total joint replacement surgery may be the best option for your long-term pain relief.
Causes of Joint Pain
The areas in the body where two or more bones meet are called joints. Covering the surfaces of the bones at a joint is a connective tissue called cartilage, which reduces any friction between bones within a joint allowing for smooth and pain-free movement. Over time, improper alignment, overuse, injury, or disease can cause a joint’s cartilage to wear away causing pain and inflammation. Degeneration of cartilage causes the joint to lose its protective cushion, and it begins to rub bone against bone with movement. Symptoms of cartilage loss and joint problems are severe pain, swelling and loss of motion and function in the affected joint.
The most common causes of joint pain are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, which can be hereditary. Other causes of joint problems are severe trauma to the joint cartilage, repetitive minor injuries, joint developmental issues and osteoporosis. Joint pain can inhibit you from completing routine activities like walking, getting dressed, standing up and climbing stairs. Your doctor may recommend you for joint replacement surgery if no other at home remedies are improving your pain or joint mobility. Other considerations for surgery include symptoms like severe joint stiffness, limping, muscle weakness, and swelling.
Total Joint Replacement Surgery
The purpose of joint replacement surgery is to replace any damaged cartilage or bone loss at the joint, to relieve pain and gain back the joint’s full mobility. In a total joint replacement, any damaged cartilage and bone is removed from the joint and replaced with a prosthetic implant called prosthesis. These implants are made of a combination of titanium, cobalt chrome, stainless steel, ceramic material and polyethylene. The replacement joint implant is attached to the bone with acrylic cement or can be press-fit into the joint, allowing the prosthesis to mimic the shape and movement of a natural joint.
Total joint replacement surgery only takes a few hours and is performed in either a hospital or an outpatient surgery center. The procedure requires that you stay in the hospital at least 2-3 days after surgery, or until you are able to walk again on your own or with a walker. Older patients with more severe health problems may be referred to a rehabilitation center for 7-10 days or more for physical therapy.
3 Types of Joint Replacement Surgery
The three most common types of joint replacement surgery are:
- Surgery for replacing the hip socket and the “ball,” or head of the thigh bone (femur)
- Usually for those with severe damage to the hip bone caused by arthritis
- Surgery for replacing damaged cartilage and any loss of bone structure or ligament support in the knee cap caused by advanced arthritis or bone deformity
- Replacement of the large ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder
- Usually for those with advanced osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, or have had a severe shoulder injury
Recovery time can be different depending on the type of joint replacement surgery. Most patients who have a total knee replacement surgery are walking and moving around the day after, with a dramatic improvement in movement and alleviated pain within three months. For a total hip replacement, patients can usually stand up the day after surgery and begin walking on crutches or a walker on the second day. After 6-12 weeks, you should be able to walk without a walker and return to an active lifestyle. After a total shoulder replacement, a successful recovery is dependent upon sticking to a structured exercise and stretching regimen prescribed by your physical therapist. Full recovery of the shoulder joint can take from 6 months to a year.
Complications after joint replacement surgery are not common but in the event that they do occur, most are treatable. Common complications include infection, blood clots, nerve injury, and prosthesis dislocations. Your doctor will explain all potential risks with you when discussing the surgery and provide information on preventing complications.
The Woodlands Sports Medicine Centre’s experienced team of physicians and specialists make the process of joint replacement surgery and recovery as smooth as possible. To learn more about the specific types of joint replacement procedures, click the topics below.