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Is joint replacement right for you?

Last Modified: November 02, 2023

Family Medicine, Diseases & Disorders

joint replacement

This post was written based on an appearance by Jonathan Lynch, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon, Ortho NorthEast, on the program PBS Healthline.

If you’ve been living with joint pain, you may be considering getting a joint replacement. However, there are a lot of factors to consider when deciding if this procedure is right for you.

Who is a candidate for joint replacement?

The number one indicator that someone is a candidate for joint replacement is having bone-on-bone arthritis. This means there is no cartilage left in the joint space, causing the joint to rub. An orthopedic surgeon will also take into consideration your general health. Because joint replacement is a major surgery, it’s important to factor in a patient’s health and whether they have any comorbidities that could put them at risk for complications during surgery.

If you’re healthy enough to have surgery and your orthopedic surgeon decides that your joint could benefit from being replaced, it’s up to you to make the decision to have surgery. Painful joints aren’t a life-threatening situation, but they can be debilitating to your quality of life.

For patients without bone-on-bone arthritis, it’s often recommended to try more conservative treatments first.

To learn more about total anterior hip replacement, check out this post.

What are some risk factors for joint replacement?

Being overweight or having a high BMI can be a risk factor for complications during surgery. Although many overweight patients can have successful outcomes, it’s important to talk with your orthopedic surgeon about your health. He or she can help you decide whether it would be beneficial for you to lose weight before surgery as a preventive measure to reduce your risk.

Patients who smoke, abuse alcohol or have uncontrolled diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, chronic renal failure and more are all at risk for complications and should be evaluated prior to surgery.

Should you be concerned if you’ve had a previous blood clot?

Blood clots are a big concern for joint replacement patients, especially those who have a history of blood clots. If you’ve had one before, you’re more at risk for developing another. However, you can still have a successful joint replacement experience. By talking with your orthopedic surgeon, he or she can create a plan for your surgery to help mitigate your risk, which may include putting you on a stronger blood thinner or inserting an IVC filter in your vein prior to surgery to catch any blood clots.

Will you go home right after surgery?

Almost every joint replacement procedure now is considered outpatient, but that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to go home the same day. Although many people can go home safely after surgery, some may require a night in the hospital for further monitoring. Your orthopedic surgeon will help you decide which option is best for you, taking into consideration your age, general health and the procedure you are having.

What are the benefits of outpatient surgery?

Research shows that the sooner you get up and start moving following surgery, the less likely you are to develop complications such as blood clots. Moving your joint and putting weight on it right after surgery helps you recover better and faster. For this reason, if you are in good general health, your orthopedic surgeon will encourage you to go home the same day.

For most patients, outpatient joint replacements are a safe option that encourage you to be more active following your procedure and get you on the path to healing faster.

What is used to manage pain?

Before surgery, you will be given a spinal block to help with pain the first 24-hours. Once you head home, you will take the same pain medications with you that you would have received at the hospital, allowing you to successfully manage your pain from the comfort of home.

What is the recovery like?

Following joint replacement, you should be able to put your full weight on your joint soon after (unless you had severe bone loss). For the first two weeks following surgery, you’ll experience some level of pain. After that, most patients feel as if they’ve turned the corner and are feeling less pain than they were.

Your orthopedic surgeon will check your incision two weeks post-surgery and take an x-ray after six weeks to ensure you are healing well. If there are any concerns at that point, you’ll be checked again at 12 weeks and then one year after surgery.

Recovery typically takes six weeks. For those who had knee replacement, you can plan to be 80% recovered at six weeks; 90% recovered if you had your hip replaced.

Will my joint replacement last?

Your joint replacement should last over a decade, with some patients experiencing longevity of 20 to 30 years. Whether you will need a second joint replacement depends on your age. If you are an older patient, it should last the rest of your life. Younger patients will need to get it replaced roughly 15 years down the road.  

Having a joint replaced is a big commitment. However, if you’re experiencing pain in your joint, having it replaced could help you enjoy life again. Talk with your healthcare provider about your options for joint replacement.

To schedule orthopedic care in Allen County, call Ortho NorthEast at 260-484-8551 or click to request an appointment. To find orthopedic care outside of Allen County, click to view PPG - Orthopedics locations.

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