New Year, New Joints
January 02, 2018
Submitted by McLean County Orthopedics
Joint replacement surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures. In fact, many would argue that joint replacement surgery is one of the greatest surgical advancements of the last three decades. It may even seem that we are creating a generation of “bionic” people, as over 1 million Americans have a hip or knee replaced each year and approximately 7 million Americans are currently living with a hip or knee replacement. This number is expected to increase due to several factors, including the aging baby boomer population, the desire to continue with an active lifestyle, and people’s unwillingness to put up with painful joints or limited mobility. Also contributing to the trend are younger individuals who are undergoing these procedures. It wasn’t that long ago that joint replacements were rarely performed in people under 60, but that is no longer true. Today, people do not want to alter their activity level. They want to continue to play tennis, ski, run marathons etc. well beyond their 50s and 60s.
Osteoarthritis is the most common reason why people seek out joint replacement surgery. Osteoarthritis is a condition where the cartilage, which acts as a cushion between the bones and enables the joint to move smoothly, breaks down. This causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and problems moving the joint. When people get to the point where they can’t sleep due to pain, or can’t participate in physical activities such as running or playing golf, or have trouble with everyday things such as walking and climbing stairs, then joint replacement is often the answer.
Hips and knees are the joints that are most often replaced. However, the term replacement isn’t always entirely accurate. Many times, only the damaged parts of the joint are replaced rather than the entire joint, as is the case with some knee replacements. With hips, the pain is due to worn-out cartilage, which causes the bones to rub together, so what’s actually being replaced is often the surface of the joint.
Only a board-certified orthopedic surgeon can determine if you need a joint replaced. The surgeon will perform a comprehensive medical evaluation that will likely include tests such as x-rays. He or she may put a small, lighted tube called an arthroscope into your joint to look for damage. A small sample of your tissue could also be tested. After looking at your joint, your surgeon may first recommend exercise, physical therapy, weight loss, or medicine. If these strategies are not effective to relieve the pain, then surgery may be the best option.
Patients often come to us asking about something that they have seen in the news, read online, or advertised on television regarding joint replacement. It’s easy to be confused when health information is advertised directly to consumers — perhaps promising a “replacement that lasts a lifetime,” or a “gender-specific knee,” or “back to playing golf in two weeks.” The very newest technologies, techniques, and materials aren’t necessarily better. Furthermore, they may not have a proven record of performance. Your surgeon is the one that will give you the best, most accurate information about your specific treatment and recovery.
It’s important for people to realize that there are many different surgical techniques used to perform joint replacement surgeries. There are also a variety of replacement devices (prostheses) that may be used. Different surgeons may prefer one method or device over another. There isn’t one “best” procedure or method. Joint replacement has an extremely high success rate, but it must be individualized for each patient as there are many factors to be considered, including age, activity level, and overall health. What’s important is to discuss all your options with your physician and, together, decide on the best treatment.
There have been many advancements made in the area of joint replacement surgery and recovery. There are fewer complications, recovery is faster, pain management is improved, and the vast majority of patients undergoing joint replacement are pain-free and can move and feel better. These are still major operations, and full recovery takes some time, but most people will experience a big improvement in their quality of life.
For more information on any orthopedic problem, call 309-663-6461 to schedule an appointment with the board-certified physicians at McLean County Orthopedics or visit their website at www.mcleancountyorthopedics.com. Their new office is at 1111 Trinity Lane in Bloomington.
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