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Joint Replacement: Things to Consider

Even if you meet the requirements for joint replacement surgery, here are three key questions to ask yourself.

  • Could more conservative treatment work? Joint replacement is a common, effective, and relatively safe procedure. But it does have risks and full recovery takes months. Make sure that you've tried all of the nonsurgical treatments available first.
  • Do you have help at home? It may be difficult to recover from joint surgery alone. For at least a few weeks, you'll likely need some assistance getting dressed, preparing food, changing your bandages, and moving around. If you don't have family or close friends who can help, see if there's a rehab facility where you could recover.
  • Are you committed to making changes? For a good result with joint replacement surgery, you need to commit yourself to hard work in the months before and the months after surgery. You may need to improve your lifestyle, eat healthier, quit smoking, lose weight, and exercise more.

"I tell people that when it comes to a successful joint implant, 10% of the success lies with the surgeon, 10% with the surgery, and 10% with the physical therapist," Nayfeh tells WebMD. "The rest is up to the patient. If they don't work at recovery, they don't get better."

If you don't commit to making changes, the chances that you will have complications -- or that your joint replacement will fail -- are much higher. You need to be ready for joint replacement, mentally and physically.

Joint Replacement: Next Steps

Wondering what you should do next? Here are some suggestions.

  • Research joint replacement. There are many possible replacement joints and procedures. Read up on them. Check out reputable web sites, such as the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) or the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons (AAHKS), says Austin.
  • Talk more with your doctor or surgeon. Learn the specifics about how the surgery would help and what recovery would be like. Ask how much experience your surgeon has with the specific surgery and replacement joint that he or she is recommending.
  • Get a second opinion. "I think anyone considering a joint replacement, or any major surgery, needs at least a second opinion," says Nayfeh.
  • Consider the impact that surgery and recovery would have on your life. Think about how it would affect your job, if you work, or your home life. Talk to family members about whether they could help out during recovery.
  • Don't rush yourself. When deciding whether to get joint replacement surgery, take your time. Make sure you have answers to all your questions before you make your decision.

Knee and hip replacements help reduce joint pain and increase mobility in many people. The impact on your life can be profound -- restoring much of the freedom that daily pain took away.