What You Should Know About Joint Replacement

Published March 1, 2022

Joint replacement can provide patients with a new lease on life and relief from a variety of conditions. Below, you will find all the information you need on joint replacements. 

Seniors walking after joint replacement

Every year, more than 600,000 people receive knee replacement surgery. This is just one form of joint replacement. A joint replacement is best described as surgery where a damaged joint is removed and replaced. The new prosthesis can be made of:

  • Metal
  • Plastic
  • Ceramic 

The brand new prosthesis will match the original movement and function of the join that was replaced. 

While hip and knees replacements are the most common types of joint replacements there are others including the wrist, ankle, shoulder, and elbow. The required treatment will depend on the individual patient and the issues that they are experiencing. 

When is total joint replacement recommended?

When a patient is experiencing pain or dysfunction due to an issue with a joint, replacement is not the first recommended treatment. 

According to Dr. Barry Waldman of CAO OrthoMaryland, “There are a lot of things we can do that isn’t surgery. We never want our patients to feel that just because we’re surgeons the first thing we’re going to do is operate. As a matter of fact, statistically, we operate on one out of twenty of our patients.” 

Some of the available options before surgery include therapy, bracing, anti-inflammatory solutions, and even injections. The right treatment will depend on the goals of the patient as well as their lifestyle.

Joint replacement will be recommended when these treatments haven’t proven to be effective or the pain is impacting a patient’s quality of life. Although it will typically be for older patients over 50, young patients may also be candidates for a joint replacement if they are experiencing significant levels of difficulty.

Dr. Michael Anvari of CAO Anne Arundel Orthopaedic Surgeons claims there are two main reasons why people will need joint replacement surgery. He says, “Most of the time it’s pain. Leg pain, difficulty sleeping, difficulty walking, difficulty weight-bearing, it is designed to alleviate those symptoms. For some people it’s not so much the pain, it’s dysfunction, it’s stiffness and limping.”

Types of Joint Replacement

There are various types of joint replacement including:

  • Totally joint replacement - this may be required due to advanced arthritis or a knee injury. These days, this can be completed with minimally invasive surgery. 
  • Hip replacement - anterior hip replacements use minimally invasive treatments leading to a more rapid recovery. A partial hip replacement involves replacing only the ball of the hip and not the socket. 
  • Knee replacement - there are various options to replace a knee including robotic knee surgery. 
  • Shoulder replacement surgery - Using a reverse shoulder replacement, the position of the ball and socket that are part of the joint are switched and replaced with new artificial parts. 

Preparing for Surgery

If a patient is preparing for joint replacement surgery, it’s important to ensure that they are in shape for the surgery. Experts recommend that you work to get in the best condition possible to reduce the chances of complications and ensure a faster recovery. 

For instance, if you smoke you should work to quit before your surgery. You might also want to think about changing your diet. Alcohol should not be consumed for at least 48 hours before the surgery is completed. 

Your doctor will recommend any exercises to complete before surgery. However, they are usually understanding that exercise can be difficult at this stage in your life when you require surgery to improve levels of mobility and reduce issues with pain. 

On the night before the surgery, you need to make sure that you shower or bathe. Your doctor might recommend an anti-bacterial soap which should reduce the chances of infection. 

Surgical Procedure

While many people assume that joint replacement involves replacing everything this is not usually the case. According to Dr. Rishi Gupta of CAO Mid-Maryland Musculoskeletal Institute, “A knee replacement is much like retreading a tire. You’re getting rid of an old worn-out surface and putting on a new one. You’re preserving a lot of the native anatomy around the knee.”

Possible Complications

Complications connected to joint replacement surgery are rare but may be experienced in some cases. These include:

  • Malfunction of the prosthesis - This can be caused by wear and tear which is why you have to manage your recovery progress carefully. 
  • Infection
  • Wound infection
  • Nerve damage - nerves can become damaged during surgery. 

The majority of these complications are similar to those that you face with any other type of surgery. 

Post-surgery Rehabilitation and Recovery

The recovery from joint replacement surgery is never going to be instant. However, progress is still quite rapid, particularly if patients take the right steps. According to Dr. Gupta, “Within a couple of weeks the goal is to start transitioning off walking aids. So in two weeks may be using a cane, sometimes nothing at all. By six weeks you should be doing pretty well.”

Your medical team will help ensure that you do make consistent levels of progress and reach weekly goals with your recovery. Usually, it takes between four and six months before patients notice the full benefits of their joint replacement and find that their mobility returns to normal.

During this recovery time, patients will often notice vast improvements in various aspects of their life from general mobility to physicality and a reduction in levels of pain or discomfort. 

Long-Term Outcomes

The long-term outcomes for patients who receive joint replacement are incredibly positive. Patients will ultimately find they can return to an active lifestyle and enjoy a higher quality of life without being weighed down by significant levels of pain. If a joint replacement is completed later in life, then it’s unlikely a patient will need another. If they get one earlier, then it’s worth noting that they are lasting longer than ever before. A modern artificial joint replacement may last at least 15 years


Learn more by listening to the On The Go With CAO podcast, Joint Replacement: What Everyone Needs to Know. We hope this helps you understand everything that you should be aware of about joint replacement treatment and whether this could be the right choice for you.