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Back to the Basics: Understanding a Joint Replacement Procedure

joint replacementJoint replacement may sound scary, but it is a commonly practiced procedure to improve the quality of life for people who are in immense pain. In order to perform daily activities without pain, sometimes a person’s joint needs to be replaced. Since joint replacement is a complex procedure, let’s break it down into a few commonly asked questions.

What is a joint?
A joint is an area where the end or two or more bones meet. There are many different types of joints throughout the body. However, some of the most common joint replacement procedures are knee replacement surgery, shoulder surgery, and hip replacement surgery.

When is a total joint replacement necessary?
There are several reasons that a patient may consider joint replacement surgery. While there are multiple conditions that can cause joint pain or disability, joint pain is often caused by damage to the articular cartilage. This cartilage lines the ends of the bones and can be damaged by arthritis, a fracture, or multiple other conditions.

In some case, medications and physical therapy may alleviate joint pain and disability. But if nonsurgical treatment methods don’t work, a doctor may recommend a patient undergo total joint replacement surgery.

What should I know about joint replacement surgery?
Prior to surgery, a patient will meet with their surgical team and doctor in order to prepare for the surgery. Patients may undergo health tests, including blood tests and a cardiogram, in order to help plan the procedure.

Patients should take the time to speak to their doctor to get all of their questions answered. Additionally, patients should plan ahead and make necessary arrangements for their recovery.

During the joint replacement procedure, the damaged cartilage and bone are removed from the joint. The replacement joint consists of prosthetic components made of metal, ceramic, or plastic. The prosthesis allows the patient to continue to have the natural shape and movement of the original joint.

How long is the recovery period?
While recovery differs among patients, the orthopedic doctor will encourage patients to use their new and improved joint shortly after the operation is done. Because the body is adjusting to the new joint and the tissues are healing, most patients will experience some temporary pain after the procedure. However, exercise is an important part of recovery. It’s important for patients to listen to their doctor and physical therapist to ensure a speedy recovery.

Joints and bones are easily damaged, especially as people age. In fact, bone fractures are the reason for about 3.5 million emergency room visits every year. Luckily, there are experienced orthopedic doctors out there to help. A joint replacement procedure can give patients an improved quality of life for years to come. After the procedure, patients will experience less pain and improved motion and strength that was not possible before.

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