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Hip and Knee Replacement FAQs

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Joint Replacement TotalCare

Joint replacement is a significant procedure and may feel overwhelming. This page answers questions patients often want to ask regarding a hip or knee replacement procedure. If you would like to learn more, be sure to ask your orthopedic surgeon any remaining questions you have. Our goal is to serve you and to ensure that you feel comfortable and confident facing your procedure. For more information about joint replacement surgery, visit our orthopedics and services pages, call to request an appointment, or take our free knee/hip assessment online.

What is arthritis and why does my joint hurt?

Arthritis is pain, swelling, and inflammation of a joint or joints. There are more than 100 types, but the most common is osteoarthritis-wear and tear of the joint due to age or injury.

What is joint replacement surgery?

The damaged joint surfaces are removed and replaced with artificial surfaces. It is a last resort treatment option used to relieve arthritis pain and restore function to the affected joint.The damaged joint surfaces are removed and replaced with artificial surfaces. It is a last resort treatment option used to relieve arthritis pain and restore function to the affected joint.

Who is a candidate for joint replacement surgery?

Ask these questions:

  • Have I tried medication and other conservative pain-relieving treatment options?
  • Do I have unrelenting pain in the affected joint?
  • Do I have significant difficulty with usual daily activities, such as walking, climbing stairs, cooking, cleaning, and more?
  • Has my quality of life suffered due to arthritis pain and joint damage?

The candidate needs to be seen and evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon with x-rays and an examination. More conservative treatment options are usually tried before surgery is recommended. Joint replacement surgery is recommended when pain is no longer well-controlled and joint damage significantly affects quality of life. Some insurance companies require a trial of conservative care for a minimum of three months-including use of a cane/walker and physical therapy—before they will pay for the surgery.

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What are the results of total joint replacement?

It depends on the joint being replaced. Total hip and total knee replacement surgeries have an excellent record of reliable outcomes. Approximately 500,000 hip and knee replacements are performed in the United States annually.

How long will my new joint last?

It is hoped that a hip or knee replacement will last 15 to 20 years. Implant companies are constantly seeking ways to improve the longevity of artificial joints.

But there are multiple factors to consider:

  • Weight - Body weight and obesity can contribute to additional stress on the artificial components, causing accelerated wear and tear—similar to constantly hauling heavy loads in your car.
  • Activity - Activities, such as high impact sports like running and basketball, will place additional stress on the joint replacement too—similar to driving a car over rough rather than smooth roads.
  • Age of patient - The younger the patient, the more likely that he/she will require a revision surgery in the future. Not only because they will outlive the life of the implants, but also because generally young patients are more active.

What are the major risks of surgery?

Over 90% of joint replacement patients have a successful outcome. There is the possibility of complications with any surgery, however. It's important to know what they are and that they are treatable.

Possible complications include:

  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Loosening of the prosthesis
  • Dislocation
  • Nerve or blood vessel injury near prosthesis
  • Problems with anesthesia

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How long will I be in the hospital?

Again, this depends upon the joint that is being replaced. Hip and knee replacements are typically in the hospital for three days, not including the day of surgery. The trend is toward two post-operative days.

How long does the surgery take?

The actual surgery time is one to two hours depending on the complexity of the specific case.

Where will I go after discharge from the hospital?

The majority of patients return to their own homes or that of a family member or friend. About 30% of patients are not safe to go home and require a short stay in a rehabilitation facility.

Will I need help at home?

Yes, until you are able to manage daily activities safely and independently. These daily activities include: walking, going up and down stairs, bathroom needs, cooking, and light cleaning.

What activities or sports can I return to after surgery?

Staying active is strongly encouraged, but activities should be low impact such as: Walking, swimming, bicycling, golf, doubles tennis, slow dancing, and so on.

When can I drive?

Usually not until the first visit back to the surgeon, which takes place about two to three weeks after surgery. You should be examined for strength and motion in the joint to determine if it is functioning well enough to operate the vehicle safely. You must demonstrate good control of the vehicle by practicing in empty parking lots. Driving is forbidden as long as you are taking narcotic pain medication.

When can I go back to work?

It depends on the type of work and the demands on the new joint. Sedentary desk type jobs usually return at four to six weeks and heavy demand jobs return at 12 weeks, but these are rough estimates. You may not return to work as long as you are taking narcotics.

Why should I have my surgery at Butler Memorial Hospital?

We provide state-of-the-art orthopedic care by university trained surgeons without having to travel to Pittsburgh. Our joint replacement program is coordinated with the surgeon's office to provide seamless care and support from the moment it is decided to have surgery. Helpful information is available through our web-based program 24 hours a day. We provide benchmark reliable and consistent care (compared to 50 other hospitals across the nation) that makes it easy for the patient and family to know what to expect. Our pain management team provides excellent pain control with 80% of our patient pain scores 4/10 or less throughout the hospital stay. Physical therapy is provided 7 days a week including holidays. Each patient will have a private room and bathroom with flat screen television and free Wi-Fi.

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