What is joint replacement surgery?
According to Dr. Manuj Wadhwa, Director & Head, Max Elite Institute Of Orthopaedics & Joint Replacement, in joint replacement surgery, the abnormal bone and lining structures of the joint are removed surgically and new parts are inserted in their places. These new parts may be made of special metal, plastic or specific kinds of ceramic-coated implants. The new parts allow the joints to move again with little or no pain. The surgery can:
- Reduce joint pain
- Help in restoring or maintaining joint motion
- Improve the look and alignment of the joints
- Improve overall joint function
What causes joint pain?
In a normal joint, bones have a smooth surface made of a substance called articular cartilage on their ends that allows one bone to glide against another easily. Joints are lubricated by a thin layer of fluid called synovial fluid that acts like oil in an engine to keep parts gliding smoothly. When the articular cartilage wears, is damaged or the joint fluid is abnormal, the joints become stiff and painful, causing arthritis, which may be possible to treat with this surgery.
Common myths regarding joint replacement surgery
Myth: Joint replacement surgery means a long hospital stay
Fact: There have been big advancements in joint replacement surgery. It was normal to spend up to 10 days in the hospital after joint replacement surgery, but today the average is 3-4 days. With improvements in technology and patient care, hospital stays are significantly shorter than before. Patients usually stay less than two days after hip replacements and less than three days after knee replacements.
Myth: Joint replacement surgery is highly invasive
Fact: The misconception is that some patients think that the entire knee is replaced in a knee replacement surgery but there’s only a minimal amount of bone that's taken before inserting the new parts. In knee replacement surgery, these parts consist of a metal cap for the femur, a metal base plate on the tibia and a piece of plastic in between, acting as cartilage. Surgeons today are also using less-invasive techniques and smaller incisions to perform replacements. It’s much less invasive than many people think.
Myth: Replacement joints wear out in 10 years or less
Fact: Due to improvements in materials and surgical techniques, today’s knee and hip replacements can last up to twice as long as comparable replacements done in the past. The quality components used have improved significantly. Newer implant materials like verilast have been tested for 30 years wear performance and have US - FDA approval.
Myth: If you’re under 50, you’re too young to have a joint replaced
Fact: Orthopaedic surgeons today do not classify a specific age to determine whether a patient is a good candidate for a hip or knee replacement surgery. Instead, the decision depends on the levels of disability and pain the patient is experiencing. In the past, the parts used for joint replacements had limited life spans. Now with the advancement of technology, there’s better longevity of replacement parts so it’s viable to put them in younger patients. Patients with severe arthritis don’t have to suffer through years of excruciating pain just because they’re young.
Myth: You should wait as long as possible before having a joint replaced
Fact: Waiting too long can make things worse. If your pain is so great that it’s hindering your ability to walk, then you’re not keeping your muscles and your extremities strong. You could be hindering the recovery process. Waiting until the last possible moment isn’t good for you. Rather than waiting for their mobility and quality of life to decline, patients should get their knee or hip replacement soon. This will likely improve their outcomes.
We hope you have a better understanding of joint replacement surgery, the myths & facts behind it, the possible causes for why joints need to be replaced and how the surgery helps people who suffer from joint issues.