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Joint Replacement Surgery

What is joint replacement surgery?

Illustration of an example of an artificial hip
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Joint replacement, a surgical procedure to remove and replace an arthritic or damaged joint with an artificial joint (called a prosthesis), may be considered only after other treatment options have failed to provide adequate relief from pain and/or disability.

More than 285,000 primary total hip replacements and more than 600,000 total knee replacements are performed in the United States annually.

When preparing for joint replacement surgery

As with any surgery, there are some preoperative considerations to keep in mind, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Exercise. Our bodies tend to heal and regain function faster when they are in good physical and cardiovascular condition.

  • Medication. Before the surgery, discuss with your doctor the medications you are currently taking. Some may need to be temporarily discontinued until after the surgery. Only this determination can be most appropriately made by your doctor or orthopaedist.

  • Discharge planning. As with any surgery, be sure to discuss discharge planning with your doctor beforehand. Your discharge plan may include instructions on care of the incision, pain medications, activities, special exercises, and other home care instructions.

  • Rehabilitation. People who have received a total joint replacement can still lead functional, active lifestyles. One major component of many rehabilitation programs is exercise to restore function, mobility, and strength to the affected joint and surrounding muscles. Discuss with your doctor what an appropriate postoperative rehabilitation program should include.

Consult your doctor for more specific preoperative planning for your individual condition and type of joint replacement surgery.

Possible complications associated with joint replacement surgery

Although joint replacement surgery is successful in 90% of cases, complications may still occur, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Wound infection

  • Infection around the prosthesis

  • Blood clotting

  • Malfunction of the prosthesis (may be caused by wear and tear, breakage, dislocation, or loosening)

  • Nerve injury (although rare, nerves in the surrounding area may become damaged during the surgery)

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