Arthritis refers to inflammation of joints. This can lead to stiffness, swelling and pain and may be due to a joint condition, an infection or an autoimmune condition. Most arthritis is chronic, however adhering to treatment plans and some modification of activities can help maintain an active lifestyle.…
What is joint replacement?
A joint is where two or more bones connect. Joint replacement (arthroplasty) is when a damaged joint is surgically removed and replaced with an artificial (prosthetic) joint by an orthopedic surgeon. Prosthetic joints can be made of metal, plastic, or a mix of both. In other cases, rather than replace the whole joint, only the damaged parts are replaced or fixed.
The most common types of joint replacement surgery are for the hips and knees, but other joints such as the shoulders, fingers, elbows and ankles can also require surgery.
Reasons for procedure
The main reason for joint replacement surgery is joint pain, often due to arthritis, which affects an individual's quality of life and/or ability to perform daily activities. Joint replacement surgery is considered if the joint pain does not respond to other simpler treatment options.
There are many different types of joint replacement, including:
- Hip joint replacement;
- Knee joint replacement;
- Shoulder joint replacement, and;
- Hand joint replacement.
What happens during surgery
Before your surgeon performs your procedure, you will be given an anesthetic to either block pain to the site of your surgery (regional anesthesia) or to render you unconscious (general anesthesia). Each procedure is different and depends on the site, technique, and how badly the joint is damaged. To replace a knee or joint it typically takes about two hours or less.
What happens after surgery
Depending on the type of surgery, such as knee or hip surgery, you may need to stay in hospital for a few days. Pain medications are often needed for the first few days after surgery. Physical therapy is often needed to help strengthen the muscles around the new joint and regain motion in the joint. Usually you will be provided with a group of exercises to help with rehabilitation.
Specific complications depend on the type of joint replacement surgery you are undertaking or have had, but in general they include:
- Stiffness and swelling;
- Blood clots - these result from inactivity during and after surgery and the slow flow of blood through the blood vessels;
- Infection - all surgeries carry a small risk of infection and antibiotics may be taken after surgery to help reduce your risk of infection;
- Nerve injury - although rare, there are many nerves around the joints and they can sometimes be damaged during surgery;
- Fracture - although rare, during total joint replacement there is drilling into bone, which may cause the bone to fracture;
- Implants failing or coming loose, and;
- Joint dislocation - this is when joints pop out of place.
The outlook depends on the type of joint replacement surgery you have had. Doing physical exercises as prescribed by your surgical team will help improve outcomes, such as greater range of movement and stability of the joint. Depending on your age and circumstances, you may require more surgery in the future, with the majority of hip and knee replacements lasting about 20 years.
- 4 ways to put off joint replacement - Harvard Health Publications. Accessed 9 September 2014 from link here
- Joint Replacement Surgery and You. Accessed 9 September 2014 from link here
- Possible Complications of Total Joint Replacement Surgery. Accessed 9 September 2014 from link here
- Timing of total joint replacement affects cl... [Arthritis Rheum. 2002] - PubMed - NCBI. Accessed 10 September 2014 from link here
FAQ Frequently asked questions
What is joint replacement?
Joint replacement is the surgical removal of a joint and replacement of it with an artificial (prosthetic) one. The technical term for joint replacement is arthroplasty. It can be performed on many different joints, the most common being the hips and knees.
What is arthroplasty?
Arthroplasty is the technical term for joint replacement, which is when a joint is surgically removed and replaced with an artificial (prosthetic) one.
What are the different types of joint replacement?
The most common types of joint replacement are of the hips and knees. But other joints, such as the shoulders, hand joints and ankles can also be replaced.
What are the risk factors for joint replacement?
The risk factors for joint replacement vary according to the type of joint. Arthritis is a common cause of damage requiring joint replacement. Obesity can also put stress on the hip and knee joints, causing damage which in the long term may …
What are the complications of joint replacement?
Complications of joint replacement include stiffness and swelling, blood clots, joint dislocation after surgery and the need for more surgery in the future due to the artificial joint wearing down. Rare complications of surgery include …
How long does joint replacement surgery take?
Joint replacement often takes a couple of hours, but this time can vary depending on the type of joint replacement you are having and how difficult the procedure is, i.e., whether you are having a total joint replacement or are only having a …
What will happen if I delay joint replacement surgery?
It is usually better not to delay joint replacement. The longer you remain immobile, the more difficult rehabilitation will be after your operation.
Will I need a blood transfusion during joint replacement surgery?
A small number of people need a blood transfusion after their operation, depending on the length and difficulty of the surgery.
If I need a blood transfusion for my joint replacement can I give my own blood?
Because joint replacement is an elective surgery, you are able to give some of your own blood beforehand. This is known as autologous blood donation and is usually organized through your local blood service. …