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Understanding Total Hip and Knee Replacements and Their Impact

Fri, Dec 22, 2023

Before a hip or knee replacement procedure can be considered, various non-invasive treatments should be explored. However, when joint pain has progressed into a severe condition that disrupts daily living, surgery may be the only option to alleviate pain.

While surgery can be daunting, learning more about what to expect during these procedures can help you make an informed decision for yourself or a loved one. We listed below the important information you need to know to understand total hip and total knee replacements.

What You Need to Know About Total Hip Replacement

A total hip replacement is a surgical procedure in which an orthopedic surgeon replaces the entire hip joint with an artificial implant, providing both a new ball and a new socket, along with a smooth gliding surface. The prosthetic joint is likely made out of titanium alloys and other similar durable materials. This procedure is also referred to as a total hip arthroplasty.

Hip replacements usually last for a very long time, but not forever. On average a hip replacement can last around 20 years, hopefully longer, but sometimes less.

Who Benefits from Total Hip Replacement?

Adults over the age of 50 get around 90% of hip replacements. This is most likely due to the debilitating hip pain associated with various forms of arthritis that come with age. Wear and tear of the hip joint also causes decreased flexibility and less range of motion.

Similar conditions that can cause severe hip damage and can necessitate total hip replacement are:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Osteonecrosis (aka Avascular Necrosis)
  • Perthes disease
  • Hip fractures

What Happens During Total Hip Replacement?

Your medical provider will perform a physical exam to determine the severity of your condition. They will also ask you to undergo screening tests such as a hip X-ray to evaluate the anatomy of your joint.

If you are recommended for a total hip replacement, your medical provider will direct you to an orthopedic surgeon. The surgeon will guide you on preparing for surgery and recovery, such as preparing your home for recovery, and will check your progress regularly after the procedure. During surgery, you will be put under spinal anesthesia, but will be asleep during the procedure. The surgeon will make the necessary incision to access the joint, remove the damaged joint surfaces, and implant the prosthetic pieces. You will either be in the hospital overnight for monitoring, or be able to go home the same day as the procedure if done as an outpatient at the surgery center, and will then be guided through the post-operative recovery course.

Total Knee Replacement: What It Can Do For You

Total knee replacement is a surgical option for severe cases of knee arthritis and pain. The orthopedic surgeon will replace the entire surface of the knee joint – from the inside of the knee (medial), to underneath the knee cap (patellofemoral), and the outer aspect (lateral). The damaged knee joint will be replaced by a prosthetic surface made of metal and a special polymer (plastic).

Who Benefits from Total Knee Replacement?

People who have severe symptoms such as joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and limited movement are good candidates for total knee replacement to treat bone-on-bone arthritis. People who have severe arthritis or suffered a major injury due to an accident can also benefit from total knee replacement if the joint has worn out.

What Happens During Total Knee Replacement?

Before your surgery can be scheduled, you will need to undergo comprehensive testing and physical examination. Your medical provider will lay down all the treatment options available for your specific condition.

If you choose to go through with surgery, you will go under spinal and regional anesthesia for the procedure, but will still be asleep. Your orthopedic surgeon will remove the arthritic joint surfaces, then resurface them with a prosthetic joint like putting a crown on a tooth. They may also reshape the undersurface of the kneecap to treat arthritis in that area as well. As part of the procedure, a plastic spacer will be inserted to imitate the cartilage removed from the knee that cushions the joint and acts as the new gliding surface. The procedure usually takes about one hour. You may need to stay overnight at the hospital for monitoring, or potentially be able to go home the same day.

What You Can Expect Post-Surgery

In most cases of total joint replacement, you will be put under observation overnight before being released. Your medical provider and physical therapist will guide you through post-surgery tips and activities, so you can recover well without any complications.

While you recuperate at home, you are expected to follow through with your individualized recovery plan. Physical therapy, a healthy diet, and taking prescribed pain medication are just a few examples of what you can do to accelerate your recovery safely.

You can gradually resume normal activity as you recover from the procedure. However, full recovery will require regular physical therapy sessions and exercises to increase strength, range of motion, and mobility.

Impact of Total Knee and Hip Replacements

For both procedures, the goal is an increased quality of life and generally less joint pain and stiffness. Most people who undergo either procedure report increased mobility and range of motion. However, keep in mind that these benefits happen slowly and that you will regain your strength and flexibility over time. Additionally, these results can only be achieved when you receive good post-surgery care.

The road to recovery can be unpredictable. Some risks you need to watch out for are:

  • Severe pain or fever
  • Bleeding or swelling in the surgery site
  • Signs of infection, such as redness or leaking in the surgery site
  • New pain in the surrounding areas (foot, calf, ankle) that can be a sign of a blood clot

Call your orthopedic surgeon immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

Top-Notch Orthopedic Surgeon in Raleigh, Apex, & Durham, NC

Every year, hundreds of thousands of total hip replacements and total knee replacements are done in the United States. Like with any surgical procedure, you need to put yourself into the hands of a trusted medical professional.

If you are experiencing debilitating knee or hip pain, Dr. Brett Gilbert, MD can guide you through total knee or total hip replacement surgery. His expert advice from years of experience and keen medical skills can help provide you with the excellent orthopedic care and the pain management you need. You can find out more about his specializations on our website.

For orthopedic concerns, let Dr. Gilbert assess your condition and provide you with the necessary treatment for recovery. You can request an appointment with Dr. Gilbert by using our appointment request form, or you can also self-schedule your appointment here.

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