“Total joint replacement is great. But it’s not magic,” says Dr. Barry Clark, Orthopedic Surgeon with Pee Dee Orthopaedic Associates. “Patients return to many of the activities that they did – or were trying to do – before surgery. Range of motion is increased. Pain is reduced or alleviated. Quality of daily life returns. However, joint replacement doesn’t make you younger, run faster, or golf better than you did before your joints became a problem.”
Here are 8 other things you should know about knee and hip joint replacement:
1. Experience matters. Studies show that orthopedic surgeons who do 50 or more Total Joint Replacement procedures a year have a markedly lower level of complications than surgeons who performed 12 or fewer annually.
2.You’ll be back on your feet quickly. Doctors will try to get you up on your feet and walking quickly – often taking a few steps the same day as the surgery. However, while you are undergoing post-surgical rehabilitation, you may need help driving and with household chores. You might also need crutches, a walker, and elevated toilet seats or some grab bars in your bathroom.
3. Returning to work depends on your job. If you have a desk job, doctors might allow you to get back to work within a month of the surgery. If your work is more strenuous, it may take several months. Talk to your employer before the surgery. Check your short-term and long-term disability insurance coverage if a longer recovery period is expected.
4. You are responsible for your own recovery. After you leave the hospital, you will be prescribed physical therapy several times a week for the first six weeks or so. If you want to regain mobility and your quality of life, do the therapy. Follow your therapist’s and doctor’s directions and you should regain as much function as possible in 6-12 months. Nothing disappoints an orthopedic surgeon more than successfully completing a surgery, then seeing the patient failing to do rehab afterwards.
5. Nearly 60% of joint replacements are for patients on Medicare. However, as obesity rates climb in the US, more patients in their 30s and 40s need knee or hip joints replaced, placing the cost on their employers or individual insurers.
6. There is no “right age” for Joint Replacement. Patients in their 30s and 40s are the fastest growing age group receiving joint replacement. 44-year-old Rock-n-Roll guitarist Eddie Van Halen recently underwent hip joint replacement surgery. From 1997-2009, knee replacements tripled among people ages 45-64.
7. Your new knee or hip won’t last forever. Research continues to improve the durability of these man-made replacement parts. Today’s replacement joints (prostheses) last between 15 and 20 years, if there are no accidents or infections. About 1% of the Joint Replacements fail in the first year. If you make it past that benchmark, you’re probably good for quite a long while.
8. Replacement hip and knee joint parts are made of a wide range of materials. Metals – such as stainless steel, titanium or alloys of chrome and cobalt – comprise most of the replacement. Polyethylene is used on joint surfaces. Zirconium – a ceramic material – is used in some newer prosthetic joints
Sources include: McLeod Health, health.com, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, US Centers for Disease Control, AARP