At Northwest Extremity Specialists, we've seen how joint replacement surgery can be a life-changing solution for people struggling with joint pain caused by arthritis, injury, or the natural wear and tear of aging. If you're wondering whether total joint replacement surgery is right for you, we encourage you to contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our Portland orthopedic surgeons.
About Joint Replacement Surgery
Joint replacement surgery involves removing damaged cartilage and bone from a joint and replacing it with prosthetic components constructed from materials like metal, plastic, or ceramic. The prosthetic components used in joint replacement surgery are designed to mimic the natural joint, providing a smooth, pain-free range of motion.
The main objective of joint replacement surgery is to improve the patient’s quality of life by reducing pain and increasing mobility. With advancements in surgical techniques and implant materials, joint replacement surgery has become increasingly successful in providing long-lasting pain relief and improved function for patients in Oregon and throughout the world.
When Surgery Is Needed to Control Joint Pain
Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, is the most common reason for joint replacement surgery, as it causes joint pain and limits daily activities. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the affected joint gradually breaks down and wears away over time. This results in less cushioning and protection for the bones, leading to pain, stiffness, and decreased joint flexibility.
Other reasons for joint replacement surgery can include injuries, such as fractures or ligament tears, and medical conditions that damage the joint. For example, avascular necrosis, a condition in which the blood supply to a bone's joint surface is disrupted, can cause joint degeneration, especially in the hip.
When non-surgical treatments like medications, injections, and physical therapy fail to provide sufficient pain relief and improved function, a visit to a joint replacement specialist may be necessary.
Types of Joint Replacements
Common joints replaced in total joint replacement procedures, also known as arthroplasty, include the hip, knee, and shoulder.
Knee Replacement Surgery
Knee replacement surgery, also known as total knee arthroplasty, replaces the damaged or worn-out components of the knee joint with artificial parts.
The knee prosthesis is typically composed of three components: the tibial component, the femoral component, and the patellar component. The tibial component serves as the replacement for the top surface of the shinbone (tibia), ensuring a secure and smooth connection with the artificial femoral component, which replaces the damaged end of the thigh bone (femur). Completing this triad of components is the patellar component, which addresses the undersurface of the kneecap (patella) to ensure proper tracking and stability.
Shoulder Replacement Surgery
Shoulder replacement surgery seeks to reduce pain and enhance the performance of the shoulder joint by replacing damaged or worn-out components with artificial parts.
During a shoulder replacement surgery, the surgeon carefully removes the damaged or arthritic joint surfaces, including the humeral head (the upper arm bone's rounded end) and the glenoid (the socket in the shoulder blade). After cutting and reshaping these bones to prepare them for the artificial components, the surgeon inserts the artificial components of the shoulder joint. These components typically consist of a metal ball (prosthetic humeral head) that attaches to the upper arm bone and a plastic socket (glenoid component) that fits into the shoulder blade's socket. These components may be fixed in place using cement or press-fit techniques.
Hip Replacement Surgery
Hip replacement surgery, a procedure that replaces a damaged hip joint with an artificial one, seeks to alleviate pain and improve joint performance.
The procedure for hip replacement surgery entails making an incision in the hip, removing the damaged joint, and replacing it with an artificial joint. The femoral component is a metal stem that is inserted into the upper end of the femur. The acetabular component is a socket-shaped implant that is placed into the acetabulum of the pelvis to provide a smooth surface for the femoral head to move within.
Preparing for Joint Replacement Surgery
Prior to surgery, patients undergo pre-surgery assessments, which may include:
- A review of their medical history
- A physical examination
- Blood tests to evaluate their general health and identify any potential risks or complications
In addition to pre-surgery assessments, patients may need to make lifestyle modifications to ensure optimal health for the operation and recovery. These modifications may include:
- Quitting smoking
- Decreasing or eliminating alcohol consumption
- Losing weight if necessary
- Engaging in pre-operative exercises or a “prehab” exercise program
What to Expect During the Joint Replacement Procedure
Throughout the joint replacement procedure, anesthesia is administered to the patient to prevent any pain during the operation. The surgeon then makes incisions to access the damaged joint, removes the impaired components, and replaces them with artificial components. The length of the surgery will depend on the severity of the joint damage and the method of the surgery.
Minimally invasive techniques have become increasingly popular in joint replacement surgery. They offer several benefits, including:
- Decreased size of the incision
- Limited extent of tissue damage
- Reduced duration of anesthesia
- Shortened recovery period
- Decreased levels of discomfort
Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation
After total joint replacement surgery, patients usually collaborate with a physical therapist for a few weeks to rebuild muscle strength and mobility. The therapy may include exercises to flex and extend the joint, manage pain, and enhance overall function.
The advantages of physical therapy and rehabilitation include improved muscle strength and mobility, decreased pain, and enhanced overall function. Patients adhering to a comprehensive rehab program are more likely to achieve optimal mobility and recovery.
It is important to work closely with your physical therapist and follow their recommendations for the best results. You may experience temporary pain related to weakened muscles and tissue healing. However, this pain should gradually lessen over the course of a few months.
Preventing and Managing Complications
Despite the general success of joint replacement surgery, it’s prudent to be aware of potential risks and complications. Some common complications related to prosthetic implants include:
- Blood clots
- Nerve injury
- Loosening or dislocation of the prosthesis
Adherence to your doctor’s directives helps prevent and manage complications after joint replacement surgery. This includes:
- Taking prescribed medications
- Participating in physical therapy
- Making necessary lifestyle modifications, such as quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight
If you are concerned about your recovery or believe you may be experiencing complications from your joint replacement, contact your doctor immediately for further guidance.