Total Joint Replacement

Information provided by the Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

WHAT IS A TOTAL JOINT REPLACEMENT?

Several conditions can cause joint pain and disability and lead patients to consider joint replacement surgery. In many cases, joint pain is caused by damage to the cartilage that lines the ends of the bones (articular cartilage)—either from arthritis, a fracture, or another condition.

If nonsurgical treatments like medications, physical therapy, and changes to your everyday activities do not relieve your pain and disability, your doctor may recommend total joint replacement.

PREPARING FOR SURGERY

In the weeks before your surgery, your surgical team and primary care doctor will spend time preparing you for your upcoming procedure. For example, your primary care doctor may check your general health, and your surgeon may require several tests — such as blood tests and a cardiogram — to help plan your surgery.

There are also many things you can do to prepare. Talk to your doctor and ask questions. Prepare yourself physically by eating right and exercising. Take steps to manage your first weeks at home by arranging for help and obtaining assistive items, such as a shower bench, handrails, or a long-handled reacher. By planning ahead, you can help ensure a smooth surgery and speedy recovery.

SURGICAL PROCEDURE

Total joint replacement surgery takes a few hours. The procedure is performed at Davis Medical Center.

During the surgery, the damaged cartilage and bone is removed from your joint and replaced with prosthetic components made of metal, plastic, or ceramic. The prosthesis mimics the shape and movement of a natural joint. For example, in an arthritic hip, the damaged ball (the upper end of the femur) is replaced with a metal ball attached to a metal stem that is fitted into the femur, and a plastic socket is implanted into the pelvis, replacing the damaged socket.

REHABILITATION AFTER SURGERY

Recovery and rehabilitation will be different for each person. In general, your doctor will encourage you to use your "new" joint shortly after your operation. Although it may be challenging at times, following your doctor's instructions will speed your recovery.

Most patients will experience some temporary pain in the replaced joint because the surrounding muscles are weak from inactivity, the body is adjusting to the new joint, and the tissues are healing. This pain should resolve in a few months.

Exercise is an important part of the recovery process. Your doctor or physical therapist will provide you with specific exercises to help restore movement and strengthen the joint.

If you have any questions about limitations on your activities after total joint replacement, please consult your doctor.

© 2019 by Tygart Valley Orthopedics & Sports Medicine.