Joint Replacement Surgery

Dr. Nakul Shah

What is Joint Replacement?
Joint replacement surgery is removing damaged joints and replacing with new ones. A joint is where two or more bones come together, like the knee, hip, and shoulder. The surgery is usually performed by orthopaedic (pronounced or-tho-PEE-dik) surgeons. Sometimes, the surgeon will not remove the whole joint, but will only replace or fix the damaged parts.

The doctor may suggest joint replacement surgery to improve the way you live. Replacing a joint will not only help relieve pain, but also help you move and feel better. Mostly, hips and knees are replaced, but other joints can be replaced too including shoulders, fingers, ankles, and elbows.

What Can Happen to Joints?
Joints can be damaged by arthritis and other diseases, injuries, or other causes. Arthritis or simply years of use may cause the joint to wear away. This can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling. Bones are alive, and they need blood to be healthy, grow, and repair themselves. Diseases and damage inside a joint can limit blood flow, causing problems.

What Is a New Joint Like?
A new joint, called a prosthesis (pronounced praas-THEE-sis), can be made of plastic, metal, or both. It may be cemented into place or not cemented, so that your bone will grow into it. Both methods may be combined to keep the new joint in place.
A cemented joint is used more often in older people who do not move around as much and in people with "weak" bones. The cement holds the new joint to the bone. An uncemented joint is often recommended for younger, more active people and those with good bone quality. It may take longer to heal, because it takes longer for bone to grow and attach to it.

New joints generally last at least 10 to 15 years. Therefore, younger patients may need to have the same damaged joint replaced more than once.

Do Many People Have Joints Replaced?
Joint replacement is becoming more common. About 773,000 Americans have a hip or knee replaced each year. Research has shown that even if you are older, joint replacement can help you move around and feel better.

Any surgery has risks. Risks of joint surgery will depend on your health before surgery, how severe your arthritis is, and the type of surgery done. Many hospitals and doctors have been replacing joints for several decades, and this experience results in better patient outcomes. Seek answers to your questions by talking to your doctor or patients who have previously undergone a surgery. A doctor specializing in joints will probably work with you before, during, and after surgery to make sure you heal quickly and recover successfully.
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