Is It Time for a New Joint?

Millions of us struggle with pain and loss of motion because of joint damage caused by arthritis. If other treatments don’t offer relief, you may wonder about turning in your worn-out joints for new ones.

Surgery may not be your first choice. But if you are a candidate for total joint replacement, know that more than 90% of people have good to excellent results, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. They get relief from pain and can return to normal daily activities.

Should you have surgery?

Joint replacement should be a final step in treatment. More conservative treatments are generally recommended before joint replacement.

Those other treatments include using pain medicine, losing weight to ease stress on the joint, and reducing physical activities that cause pain. Healthcare providers also may suggest exercises to keep muscles and joints flexible, promote fitness, and make muscles stronger that support damaged joints.

While most people undergoing joint replacement surgery are in their 60s or older, younger people may undergo joint replacement when their condition supports this. However, younger people may have other choices available to them like changing to a less physically demanding job, or having a different type of procedure that realigns or only replaces part of a joint.

The younger you are when you get a new joint, the more likely you are to need surgery to revise the joint replacement in the future. Surgery to fix or replace artificial joints has a risk of infection and other complications about 4 times greater than the first surgery. Because healthcare providers shape and remove bone to accept the new joint, repeated surgery also leaves less bone to attach to each new joint.

When do you need surgery?

X-ray evidence of joint damage is 1 of the factors used to decide who should have this surgery. Your pain and other symptoms are the most important things to keep in mind when deciding. This is mostly a quality of life decision.

People who are considered for joint replacement surgery should have 1 of the following: severe pain during activity, such as walking or getting up from a chair; pain that prevents them from doing activities; or pain at night that prevents them from sleeping.

What can you expect?

To get ready, you should work with your healthcare provider to be sure you can tolerate anesthesia. Have dental problems fixed before surgery to reduce the risk for infection. Any medical problems should be made stable before surgery.

Total joint replacement involves a 2-day or 3-day hospital stay. Typical hip and knee patients can walk the next day using a walker. You’ll probably be released from the hospital on the third or fourth day, but you’ll need time to recover.

At first, you may need items like crutches or a walker after hip replacement. Within a few months, you should be able to return to most of your normal daily activities without help. You may still need physical therapy.

After shoulder replacement surgery, you can start shoulder exercises with someone else moving the joint for you. Three to 6 weeks after surgery, you’ll do exercises a therapist gives you. In time, you’ll begin to stretch and strengthen your shoulder so you can get back to normal use with far less pain than you had before the surgery.

Recovery from joint replacement surgery generally involves some pain for 2 to 3 months. However, it’s usually a different type of pain and will go away as you recover.

Will a new joint last?

Experts warn against unrealistic expectations for a new joint. You shouldn’t expect it to bear activities that involve jumping or the kind of stress that would be hard on a natural joint. Your healthcare provider will advise you to avoid certain activities after surgery. Your healthcare provider may even recommend that you should avoid certain joint positions in order to prevent dislocation of the joint. The limitations given will depend on the joint that is replaced, as well as your situation.

An artificial joint will eventually develop changes from wear and tear, even under normal use and activity conditions. It may need to be replaced at some point. Artificial joints generally last 10 to 15 years. A person who is younger at the time of the joint replacement surgery may eventually need to have the new joint replaced. The good news is that new materials being developed for joint replacement are giving artificial joints a longer life span.

Synvisc

Do you have arthrisit in your knee, but not ready to have surgery? A Synvisc injection could help be that buffer! Synvisc-One® (hylan G-F 20) otherwise known as the “rooster shot” is an injection that supplements the fluid in your knee to help lubricate and cushion the joint, and can provide up to six months of osteoarthritis knee pain relief by improving the knee joint’s natural shock absorbing abilities. The injection contains a gel-like mixture made from a substance called hyaluronan that comes from chicken combs. Hyaluronan is a natural substance found in the body and is present in very high amounts in joints. All of our orthopedic physicians and physicians assistants here at Comportho perform this injection. Find out if you are a candidate for such a procedure today! Call 262-764-5595.

Anatomy of the Knee

Anterior view of knee joint anatomy; AMuscsk_20140311_v3_001 SOURCE: AMuscsk_20140311_v3_001_Layers.psd; AMuscsk_20130821_v1_012_Layers.psd MOD from print image

The knee is a vulnerable joint that bears a great deal of stress from everyday activities such as lifting and kneeling, and from high-impact activities such as jogging and aerobics.

The knee is formed by the following parts:

  • Tibia. Shin bone or larger bone of the lower leg
  • Fibula. Smaller of the 2 lower leg bones
  • Femur. Thighbone or upper leg bone
  • Patella. Kneecap

Each bone end is covered with a layer of cartilage that absorbs shock and protects the knee. Basically, the knee is 2 long leg bones held together by muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

There are 2 groups of muscles involved in the knee, including the quadriceps muscles (located on the front of the thighs), which straighten the legs, and the hamstring muscles (located on the back of the thighs), which bend the leg at the knee.

Tendons are tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Ligaments are elastic bands of tissue that connect bone to bone. Some ligaments on the knee provide stability and protection of the joints, while other ligaments limit forward and backward movement of the tibia (shin bone).