• Joint Replacement Surgery: An Overview

  • The Purpose of a Total Joint Replacement

    Living with a worn or injured joint can be painful and frustrating. Over time, even simple things, such as walking through a grocery store or getting up from a chair, may cause you pain. But you don’t have to live this way. In many cases, an orthopedic surgeon (a doctor who treats bone and joint problems) can replace your problem joint. Total joint replacement in your hip or knee helps to:

    • Improve quality of life
    • Alleviate pain and better align your leg
    • Restore function
    • Strengthen your leg

    Your Role

    When it comes to preparing for recovery, much of the work is up to you. So make time each day for the exercises in this booklet. Start slowly. Then try to exercise a little more each day. Also be sure to follow your surgeon’s instructions for after surgery. The work and care you put into the weeks before and after surgery go a long way toward helping you recover

    How the Knee Works

    The knee is a hinge joint that connects the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone). It is protected by a bone called the patella (kneecap). Surfaces where the three bones touch are covered with articular cartilage, a smooth substance that cushions the bones and allows them to move easily. Other parts of a healthy knee include:

    • The meniscus, a pad of cartilage inside the knee, helps absorb shock.
    • Ligaments connect the leg bones and keep the knee stable.
    • Muscles move the knee joint and help keep it strong.

    Causes of Joint Pain

    When one or more parts of the joint are damaged, joint movement suffers. Over time, cartilage starts to crack or wear away. Because cartilage cannot fully repair itself, the damage may keep increasing. Common causes of joint damage include:

    • Inflammatory arthritis. A chronic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout, causes swelling and heat (inflammation) in the joint lining. As the disease progresses, cartilage wears away and the joint stiffens.
    • Osteoarthritis. Years of normal use can cause cartilage to crack and wear away. As the bones rub together, they become rough and pitted. This wears down the socket.
    • Injury. A bad fall or blow to the knee can injure the joint. If the injury does not heal properly, cartilage can wear away.
    • Avascular necrosis. This means that bone has “died.” If the artery that supplies blood to a bone (such as the femoral head) becomes injured or clogged, avascular necrosis occurs. If the bone dies, the joint will decay and will be unable to support weight. This results in a very painful joint.

    The Major Risks of Total Joint Replacement

    People of all ages can have a total joint replacement. But you may have to see your family doctor, a cardiologist, or other specialist before you can be cleared for surgery. This is just to make sure that you can withstand the effects of surgery, because joint replacement, like any surgery, has possible risks and complications. These might include:

    Special measures are taken to reduce the risk of infection. This means you’ll be given antibiotics during surgery and for 24 hours afterward. The antibiotics are given to you through intravenous therapy (IV). This means they are given directly into your vein.

    Blood Clots: Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or Pulmonary Embolus (PE)
    As with any surgery, there is a slight risk of developing blood clots in your legs. This is because the amount of moving you can do after surgery will be limited. In some cases, these blood clots can break away to flow through the bloodstream and cause serious damage. To help prevent this, you’ll be given tight-fitting stockings and/or leg devices and blood thinner medication that help prevent clots. You will also be encouraged to do ankle pumps while lying in bed.

    Blood Loss
    You may need blood during or after surgery. Your surgeon may have already suggested that you donate your own blood in case you need a transfusion during or after surgery.

    Anesthesia Complications
    You should inform your anesthesiologist if you or a close family member has ever had a reaction to anesthesia. The choice of anesthesia depends on many factors that your surgeon and anesthesiologist will discuss with you.