Q: What is joint replacement?
A: Joint replacement is a surgical procedure that replaces a worn out or injured joint—most often the knee or hip—with a metal, ceramic or plastic joint. Joint replacement is the standard of care for relieving pain and restoring mobility to severely arthritic or injured joints that have not responded adequately to medications, physical therapy or other treatments.
Q: What are the primary benefits of joint replacement?
A: The two primary benefits of joint replacement are pain relief and improved mobility. These two factors allow most people to maintain a more active lifestyle and that can lead to other health benefits such as weight management and reducing risk of heart disease. In some cases, the surgeon can also improve the alignment of deformed joints with joint with joint replacement surgery. This can improve both the function and physical appearance of the joints.
Q: How long does an artificial joint last?
A: It's impossible to predict how long a new joint will last, since factors such as age, weight, activity level and bone strength all play a role. Most studies show that more than 90 percent of the time, a new joint lasts for 20 years. We expect that your new joint will bring you many years of pain-free activity. However, a small percentage of people receiving joint replacements require another surgery at some point in time.
Q: Will there be a lot of pain after the surgery?
A: As with any surgery, especially one that involves a weight bearing joint such as your knee or hip, there will be some pain following surgery and during your recovery. However, our orthopedic surgeons use minimally-invasive techniques that can reduce pain and speed recovery; our anesthesiologists and pain management specialists are trained in the most advanced pain management therapies and will work with you to control pain as much as possible. Typically, the sooner after surgery you can get up, move around and begin physical therapy, the quicker pain and soreness will diminish. Many factors including your general health and activity level impact the effectiveness of pain medications. Please discuss pain management options with your surgeon if you have specific concerns.
Q: How long do joint replacement surgery and recovery typically take?
A: In general, the surgery to replace a knee or hip takes between 90 minutes and 2 hours. You'll need to arrive early so that a JRC nurse and anesthesiologist can complete an assessment before surgery.
If your surgery is in the morning, you will probably begin walking and start therapy later that day. If it is scheduled for the afternoon, your therapy will begin the next morning. A typical JRC stay is 2 to 4 days after surgery, depending on how quickly you progress with your physical therapy. Some patients leave the JRC as early as one day following surgery. You should be able to walk comfortably with a walker or cane before leaving the JRC. You may need to use a walker or cane for 2 to 3 weeks after surgery, but this also varies with each patient.
If you work and your job requires a lot of standing, movement or physical exertion, it may be approximately 4 to 6 weeks after surgery before you can return to work. Some types of heavy labor may not be advisable following joint replacement. This is an important issue to discuss with your surgeon as you plan for joint replacement surgery.
While it varies for each patient, many people are able to start driving in about 2 to 4 weeks and resume recreational activities such as golf within 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. Your surgeon will give you specific guidelines for activity based on your individual circumstances.
Q: What type of follow up care will be provided after I leave the JRC?
A: Before you leave the JRC, your case manager will make arrangements for all aspects of your transition to home or another care facility including scheduling a follow-up appointment with your surgeon.
If you're like most patients, you will receive 1 to 2 weeks of in-home or outpatient physical therapy to continue strengthening your leg. Your nurse will go over specific instructions as indicated by your surgeon.