Do I need a joint replacement?

With people living longer than ever, arthritis of the hip and knee is more common. There may be a need for 500,000 hip replacements and 3,000,000 knee replacements each year by the year 2030.

How effective are total hip and knee replacements at treating arthritis?

Treatment of arthritis starts without surgery. Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medication may help. Using a cane or avoiding doing things that hurt may give relief as well. But you may develop pain that can only be treated by surgery. At first, you may only have pain or stiffness when walking a long way. As the arthritis gets worse, routines like taking short walks, putting on shoes, or dressing may cause pain. Arthritis of the hip and knee can affect your life in many ways – including how you feel psychologically.

The good news is that hip and knee replacements are very successful surgeries. It takes time to heal afterwards, but many people return to an active, pain-free life. Less pain usually leads to better walking ability and improvement in your overall health.

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Is it worth the expense?

A common way to measure the value of a procedure is to compare the cost to the quality years of life it gives a person. The cost of the surgery itself is high, but the improvement to quality of life is great and sustained; thus, the overall costs in general are considered low. Your general health and sense of well-being also gets better. Nine out of ten people say they would have the same surgery again to treat their arthritis.

When is the right time to have my joint replaced?

The right time for joint replacement surgery is a common concern. Many factors are important to think about: general health, time away from work, family commitments, and the time it will take you to get better afterwards. Most people decide the time is right when their knee or hip pain prevents them from living comfortably. In many cases, arthritis pain will prevent you from doing very simple things. Perhaps you cannot take care of your home or family, or you can no longer do your job. You must make the individual decision about the right time to have surgery.

Is there a problem with waiting too long before deciding to have your hip or knee replaced?

People with hip and knee arthritis have disability from two things: Pain and Mechanical symptoms such as locking of the joint. Some people suffer from pain, swelling, and stiffness for years before considering surgery. Other people see a doctor when mechanical symptoms (buckling, clicking, grinding, or limping) get worse. These symptoms can jeopardize safety at home or at work. As hip and knee arthritis worsens, the stiffness of the arthritic joints also worsens. This can make the replacement surgery more difficult. That may mean a longer recovery and more physical therapy. Unfortunately in severe cases, joint flexibility may never return to normal. By waiting too long, you may not get the full benefits of your hip and knee replacement surgery.

Information provided by AAHKS.

To talk with Dr. Albert Reff about joint repair and replacement, contact his office today.