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Joint Replacement Surgery

What is joint replacement surgery?

Total hip replacement showing the pelvis, bone prepared, femur and prosthesis
Click image to enlarge

Joint replacement, is surgery to remove and replace an arthritic or damaged joint with an artificial joint (prosthesis). It may be considered only after other treatment options have failed to relieve pain or improve function.

Getting ready for joint replacement surgery

As with any surgery, you'll need to keep some things in mind, including:

  • Exercise. Your body tends to heal and regain function faster when it is in good physical and cardiovascular condition.

  • Medicine. Before the surgery, discuss with your doctor the medicines you currently take. You may need to stop taking some medicines for a short time until after the surgery. Your primary care doctor and orthopedist will let you know if you need to do this.

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

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

Talk with your doctor to find out any special instructions they have for you.

Possible complications linked to joint replacement surgery

Although joint replacement surgery is typically successful, complications may still occur. They include:

  • Wound infection

  • Infection around the prosthesis

  • Blood clots

  • Malfunction of the prosthesis. This 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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