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What is joint replacement surgery?

Joint replacement surgery is the removal of the joint that is causing you pain. It is replaced with an artificial joint. These new, artificial parts are called the prosthesis. Your new prosthetic joint is made from metal and plastic. There is a high success rate for people who have a joint replacement.

The goals of joint replacement surgery are to:

  • Decrease your joint pain.
  • Improve your joint mobility.
  • Improve function of the joint.

Why have joint replacement surgery?

The most common reason for joint replacement surgery is joint pain. Joint pain is often due to the wearing away of cartilage between your bones. Cartilage acts as a cushion to allow for smooth, pain-free joint movement. When the cartilage is worn away, the two bones begin to rub together and cause increased joint pain. With a joint replacement, the new surface acts as artificial cartilage to recreate the cushioning effect.

How long will my new joint last?

All joint replacements have a limited life expectancy depending on each patient's age, weight, activity level and medical conditions. Most artificial joints last at least 10 to 14 years.

What are the risks to joint replacement surgery?

The major risks of joint surgery include infection and blood clots. Taking antibiotics and blood thinners minimizes these risks. In addition, there are special techniques in the operating room to maintain a sterile environment to decrease the chance of infection. Currently, there are no age restrictions to surgery, as long as your primary care physician has approved.

How long will I be in the hospital?

The Joint Team at Randolph Health is dedicated to your individualized care throughout your joint replacement experience. The length of time you spend in the hospital is difficult to predict. We want to be sure that all of your needs are met, to ensure that you are discharged from our hospital safe and healthy. Your discharge process will begin the day of surgery and will be re-evaluated daily by the surgeon, the physical therapist, the discharge planner and any other physicians taking care of you. Any member of the joint team will be able to help you with questions that you may have throughout your joint replacement experience.

Will I be asleep for the joint replacement surgery, and how long does joint replacement surgery last?

Your joint replacement surgery may include a block/general anesthesia, which people refer to as "being put to sleep." The complete joint replacement surgery usually lasts two to three hours, with some of this time being devoted to preparing and positioning you for joint replacement surgery.

How long is the scar, and where will it be?

The length of the scar varies depending on the type of joint replacement surgery. If you are having your knee replaced, the scar will be located down the center of your knee. For a hip replacement, the scar may be located on the side of your hip. Please speak with your physician for additional details.

What equipment will I need?

You will need a walker, cane or crutches for a few weeks as determined by your surgery results and by your surgeon. Other equipment you may need includes:

  • Raised toilet seat
  • Three-in-one bedside commode
  • Tub bench
  • Shower chair
  • Grab bar
  • Elastic shoelaces

You will receive the following equipment during your therapy in the hospital:

  • Reacher
  • Sock aid
  • Long-handled shoe horn
  • Long-handled sponge

When will joint care therapy begin?

You may begin outpatient physical therapy and occupational therapy after your Joint Replacement Camp. Therapy before surgery will help prepare your muscles and body for the joint replacement.

Physical therapy will begin the afternoon of your joint surgery or the next morning. Your group therapy will continue twice a day until you are discharged from the hospital.

Occupational therapy will begin the afternoon of joint surgery or the next morning. Your group therapy will continue twice a day until you are discharged from the hospital.

After discharge, physical and occupational therapy will continue as ordered by your surgeon.

When can I return to normal activities?

This will depend on what your surgeon determines for each situation and your progress.

  • Driving: It will depend on which leg the surgery was performed and what type of transmission your car has (manual or automatic). Consult your surgeon to determine when you can drive.
  • Work: Returning to work will be dependent on your type of job, your progress and what your surgeon says.

After my joint replacement surgery, how often will I need to visit my surgeon?

Your surgeon will schedule follow-up appointments with you. Your progress will determine how often you will need to follow up with your surgeon. If you are on a blood thinner after joint replacement surgery, you may have appointments scheduled to check your blood.

Is there anything that I cannot do after my joint replacement surgery?

Your surgeon may recommend that you avoid activities such as basketball, tennis, skiing or horseback riding, because these activities may cause damage to your new joint. If you have a hip replacement, there will be some restrictions on certain types of movement.

Will I notice anything different about my knee or hip?

Yes, many people commonly experience numbness around the area of their scar. Please consult with your surgeon to determine which changes are expected and which require additional attention.

Can I have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) after my joint replacement surgery?

Yes; please notify the people who are going to perform the MRI that you have a joint replacement.