Joint Replacement Surgery Information

Author: Disabled World
Published: 2010/08/01
Peer-Reviewed: N/A
Contents: Summary - Main - Related Publications

Synopsis: Joint replacement surgery involves the surgical removal of a damaged joint and putting in a new one. Joint replacement surgery involves the surgical removal of a damaged joint and putting in a new one - RAHTA3GFXCJW

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Joint replacement surgery involves the surgical removal of a damaged joint and putting in a new one - RAHTA3GFXCJW

A joint is where two or more of a person's bones come together, such as at their hip, knee, or shoulder. The surgery is performed by a doctor referred to as an, 'orthopaedic surgeon.' At times, the surgeon will not remove the entire joint; instead the surgeon will either fix or replace the portion of the joint that has been damaged.

A doctor may suggest joint replacement surgery to improve a person's quality of life. Replacement of a joint may relieve the amount of pain a person is experiencing as well as assisting them to move and feel better. Joints other than hip or knee joints that can be replaced include fingers, ankles, elbows, and shoulders.

Joint replacement surgery is becoming more common in America. Approximately 773,000 people in America have a knee or hip replaced annually. Medical research has demonstrated that despite a person's age, joint replacement may help a person to feel and move around better.

Prosthetic Joints

A person's joints may become damaged due to arthritis or other forms of disease, injuries, or additional causes. Arthritis, or simply years of use, might cause a person's joint to wear away causing them stiffness, pain, and swelling. Bones are a living part of the human body, they require blood in order to remain healthy, grow, and repair themselves. Damage and forms of diseases inside of a person's joint can limit the blood flow and cause problems.

Replacement joints are referred to as, 'prosthesis,' and can be made of metal, plastic, or a combination of both. The prosthesis may be cemented into place or not so the person's bone will grow into it. The methods may be combined to keep the person's new joint in place.

Cemented joints are more often used in people who are older and do not move around as much, as well as in people who have weaker bones. The cement holds their new joint to the bone itself. Un-cemented joints are more often recommended for people who are younger and more active and people who have higher bone quality. Un-cemented joints may take longer to heal because it takes longer for bone to grow and attach to the joint. New joints commonly last for a period of ten to fifteen years.

Determining if Joint Replacement is Necessary

A doctor can help a person to determine whether or not a joint needs to be replaced. They will examine the person through X-ray images or other scans, such as an MRI scan. The doctor may insert an, 'arthroscope,' which is a small, lighted tube, into the person's joint to look for any damage. A small sample of the person's tissue may also be taken and tested.

After examining the person's joint and the results of testing, the doctor might suggest exercise, walking aids to include canes or braces, physical therapy, or medications and vitamin supplements. Medications used for arthritis include anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, and other forms of medications. If the treatments do not work, the doctor may suggest an operation known as an, 'osteotomy,' which involves a surgeon aligning the person's joint. The surgeon cuts the person's bone or bones around their joint to improve its alignment. The procedure may be simpler than replacing the joint itself, although it can take longer for the person to recover.

Osteotomy is a form of operation that is no longer commonly performed. Many times, joint replacement is the the answer for people who experience consistent pain and find themselves unable to move a joint well. For example; they may experience difficulties with everyday activities such as walking, climbing a set of stairs, or taking a bath.

The Surgery

The surgical team gives the person either a local or general form of anesthesia, so they do not feel any pain. A local anesthesia blocks pain in one part of the person's body, while a general anesthesia puts the person to sleep. The surgical team then replaces the person's damaged joint with a prosthesis.

Surgery is different for each individual. The length of the surgery is dependent upon how badly the person's joint is damaged, as well as how the surgery is performed. Replacement of a knee or hip commonly takes around two hours, unless there are complicating factors. Once the surgery is over, the person is taken to a recovery room for an hour or two until they are fully awake, or the numbness goes away.

After The Surgery

People who have either hip or knee surgery may be able to go home in three to five days. Those who are older, or who experience additional forms of disabilities, may need to spend several weeks in an intermediate-care facility before returning home. The person and their team of doctors will determine the length of their stay in the hospital.

After hip or knee replacement surgery, the person will many times stand or begin walking the same day they had surgery. At first, they will walk using crutches or a walker. They may experience some temporary pain in their new joint because their muscles are weak from not being used; their body is healing. The pain can be helped with medications and should end within a few weeks or months.

The person can begin physical therapy the day after surgery to assist in strengthening their muscles around their new joint, and to help them regain motion in the joint. For example; people who have had a shoulder joint replaced usually can begin exercising the day of their surgery. A physical therapist can assist them with gentle, range-of-motion exercises. Before leaving the hospital, the therapist will show the person how to use a pulley device to help bend and extend their new joint.

Joint Replacement Success Factors

The success of a person's joint replacement surgery depends a great deal on what they do once they return home. It is important for the person to follow their doctor's advice concerning what they should eat, the medications they should take, and how they should exercise. It is important for the person to speak with their doctor about any pain, or difficulties with moving. Joint replacement is a success in greater than ninety-percent of those who have it. When problems do happen, most of them are treatable. Potential problems with joint replacement surgery include:

Blood clots: If a person's blood moves too slowly, it might start to form lumps of blood parts called, 'clots.' People who develop swelling and pain in their legs after knee or hip surgery may have blood clots. A doctor might suggest medications to thin the person's blood, special stockings, boots, or exercises to help their blood move faster.

Dislocation: At times after hip or another form of joint replacement, the ball of the prosthesis may come out of its socket. Most of the time the hip can be corrected without surgery. The person may wear a brace for a period of time if a dislocation occurs.

Infection: Areas both in the wound and around the person's new joint may become infected. This may occur while the person is still in the hospital or after they have returned home; it may even happen years later. Minor infections in the wound are commonly treated with medications. Deep infections might need a second operation to treat the infection, or to replace the joint itself.

Loosening:The person's new joint might loosen and cause them pain. If the loosening worsens, they may require another operation.

Nerve and Blood Vessel Injury: Nerves located near the person's new joint might be damaged during the surgery, although this is something that does not happen often. Over time, the damage many times improves and can disappear altogether. Blood vessels can also be injured.

Wear: Some level of wear can be found in all joint replacements. Too much wear; however, can help to cause loosening. A doctor might need to operate again should the person's prosthesis come loose. At times, the plastic can wear thin and the doctor might replace just the plastic and not the entire joint.

Medical science is studying replacement joints with the goal of finding out which are best to improve a person's flexibility and movement. They are also examining new joint materials and ways to improve the surgical process. Additional researchers are working to discover the causes of joint damage, ways to prevent joint damage, and methods of treatment.

A condition called, 'osteolysis,' where a person loses bone around the implant in response to inflammation, has been studied as well. Osteolysis can cause the prosthesis to loosen, potentially requiring another surgery. The year 2008 found scientists discovering that cells called, 'fibroblasts,' trigger the inflammation that results in osteolysis. The finding may help scientists to develop new medications that prevent osteolysis in joint replacements.

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