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Surgery for Osteoarthritis Joint Pain

Total Joint Replacement (Arthroplasty) for Joint Pain continued...

Here are some signs that joint replacement may be needed:

  • Osteoarthritis joint pain wakes you from sleep, so it's hard to get a good night's rest.
  • No matter how many medications you try, the pain doesn't stop.
  • The pain makes you avoid outings or vacations you would enjoy.
  • Even simple activities around the house are painful, like getting out of a chair or going upstairs.
  • Other normal activities of daily living are difficult due to pain or loss of mobility in the joint.

Benefits and Risks of Total Joint Replacement

More than 90% of people who have joint replacement have satisfactory outcomes. Improvements include:

  • Relief of joint pain when other options haven't worked
  • Better, easier joint movement
  • Realignment of deformed joints, improving their function and appearance

Of course, there are risks with any surgery. Your risk will depend on the type of joint replacement, as well as your:

  • General health
  • Age
  • Nutritional state
  • Bone quality and any bony deformities
  • Tendency to form blood clots

Discuss your particular risks with your surgeon.

New joints typically last between 10 and 15 years. When they wear out, the joint can be replaced, or a procedure called "revision joint surgery" may be done. In this surgery, special metal and plastic parts are used to replace the joint and any damaged bone.

Some medical conditions can make joint replacement unsuitable including being severely overweight (it may cause the joint to wear out sooner). Besides obesity, these may include:

  • Severe mental, emotional, or neurologic disorders
  • Advanced osteoporosis or another chronic medical condition
  • Conditions that make anesthesia risky, such as heart, lung, and kidney problems and previous blood clots.

What Happens During Total Joint Replacement

Since each type of joint replacement is different, let's assume you're having total knee replacement.

Once you're under general or regional anesthesia, an orthopedic surgeon first resurfaces the knee joint. Next comes replacement of the weight-bearing parts with an artificial joint. The new joint is made of metal, ceramic material, or high-density plastic parts, which may be joined to bone using acrylic cement. The surgery usually takes about two hours or less if there are no complications.

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