Joint replacement surgery is an option for those not benefiting from standard arthritis treatments, and it can help restore affected joints to a functioning state. Typically, an orthopedic surgeon will only rely on joint replacement when all other options have yielded poor results, and this is usually because pain management is no longer effective enough to maintain a good quality of life.
How Joint Replacement Works
A standard joint replacement works by removing cartilage from around the affected joint. The joint is then resurfaced with metal or plastic prosthesis and replaced. An artificial joint can theoretically replace any joint; however, hip and knee replacements tend to be the most common.
The artificial joints are usually made of metal and plastic, and sometimes both. When put into place during orthopedic surgery the joint can either be cemented or non-cemented into place, though a combination can be used in order to affix the new joint into place, depending on the location. Non-cemented replacements are typically used in younger patients, and is suitable because the remaining bone can grow enough to secure the prosthesis.
The most common metals used in prostheses can include: cobalt, chrome, and titanium, though tantalum is gaining popularity due to its porous and soft composition. These new joint replacements have the potential to last anywhere from 10 to 15 years without issue, depending on the age of the patient. The younger a person is, the higher the chance for future surgeries. This is because the joint will have more time to wear down over time.
The Benefit Of Joint Replacement Surgery
Patients who undergo joint replacement surgery can typically return to their usual activities without worry. Physical therapy to ensure proper rehabilitation will usually be required, just to ensure that the joint heals correctly, and is able to perform as needed. How quickly a patient heals will depend on a couple factors:
- The patient’s activity level before the initial surgery.
- The health of the patient.
- The severity of deterioration or impairment before the joint replacement.
- The type of surgery performed by the orthopedic surgeon; non-cemented or cemented.
- The patients level of dedication towards physical therapy, and their overall recovery attitude.
The Healing Process
Physical therapy will typically begin a day or two after the initial surgery, with patients being able to return home after a couple of days; however, depending on age, it may be prudent to remain in a rehabilitation facility to ensure proper healing. At this point, the orthopedic surgeon’s job is finished, and the healing process is left up to a physical therapist and the patient themselves.
The exact time of recovery will vary from patient to patient, with the first couple weeks being dedicated to movement and the prevention of dislocation. After which the patient will work on building up strength and mobility over the next 2 to 3 months. During this time, pain should begin to decrease. Once recovery is finished patients can usually experience a decrease in overall joint pain, and a better quality of life.