Surgery of any kind involves certain risks. Continuing developments in surgical technique and technology have significantly reduced those risks for total joint replacement patients. “In fact, serious complications in knee or hip joint replacement are found in less than 2 percent of patient outcomes,” says McLeod Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Rodney Alan of McLeod Orthopaedics. “Yet, as an informed patient, awareness of the possible complications will help you communicate any problems with your Orthopedic Surgeon.”
Efforts to fight infection begin even before surgery. Many hospitals and surgeons now tell patients to use a special anti-bacterial soap (Hibiclens) for three days before surgery. If infection of the surgical site does occur, antibiotics are generally used for treatment.
The ball-and-socket structure of a hip replacement is more likely to pop out of place than a knee joint replacement. Dislocation is uncommon, but it is most likely early in the weeks and months of your recovery. In some cases, the pieces can be reset by manipulation and without surgery.
Following surgery, you want your blood to start clotting to heal the incisions. If a piece of clotting blood breaks loose it can travel to your lungs and threaten your life. As with infection, your medical team will start work on this issue before surgery. They will have you stop taking medications that can thin the blood, such as ibuprofen.
Before and after surgery you may wear support or compression stockings to keep blood from settling in your legs. Inflatable leg coverings will also keep the blood moving. About a week before surgery, your medical team will get you up and moving as soon as possible. This is to avoid blot clots settling in your system.
Our bodies are not perfectly symmetrical. It is quite common in the general population, and especially in people with osteoarthritis, to have legs that are not exactly the same length. Before joint replacement, nearly 75 percent of hip replacement patients have a shorter limb on the side of their problem hip.
After knee joint surgery or total hip joint replacement surgery, we may be more sensitive to what feels like a difference in the length of our legs. Most patients, however, are glad to have the increased function and are not bothered by some minor discrepancy in the length of their legs.
During today’s joint replacement, your Orthopedic Surgeon will have a range of sizes of replacements available in the Operating Room and will work to choose the one that is most compatible and results in the most even leg length.
An Informed Patient Follows The Team’s Guidance
No one wants a successful Knee or Hip Joint Replacement more than your Orthopedic team. They have probably given you a list, a class or even a binder with instructions on how to prepare for your surgery.
The “to-do” items are there for a reason: your successful surgery and recovery. Follow their guidance carefully and you are on the road to a successful recovery and better quality of life.
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Sources include: McLeod Health, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, National Institutes of Health, Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery (UK)