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Joint replacement overview

Major advances helping improve quality of life

Joint replacement surgery – in which a damaged joint is removed and replaced with a metal or plastic implant – is one of the most important orthopedic surgical advances of modern medicine. 

The most often replaced joints are hips and knees, which are among the body's largest joints. Done by an orthopedic surgeon, joint replacement surgery can help relieve pain and allow you to return to and enjoy normal, everyday activities.

In the U.S., more than 750,000 patients undergo hip or knee replacements every year with a rate of success that exceeds 95 percent.

At Via Christi Hospital, our team of doctors, nurses and therapists works with each patient and caregiver to determine the best care plan for you if you need joint replacement.

Most joints are replaced because of arthritis or injury. If medication, exercise, physical therapy or other conservative measures have not been effective in treating your pain or condition or if your everyday activities, such as getting in and out of a chair or walking, are becoming more painful or difficult, your physician may suggest joint replacement surgery.

There are many kinds and designs of joint implants available today. Your surgeon will determine the best one for you based on such factors as your age and activity level.

More information on hip replacement

More information on knee replacement

What to expect with joint replacement surgery

The Via Christi Joint Replacement Center offers a one-hour class to help patients prepare for their upcoming procedure. During the class, which is offered at Via Christi St. Francis, Via Christi St. Teresa and Via Christi St. Joseph, you will be provided information about what to bring with you to the hospital, care that you should do before surgery, how to prepare your home for recovery, as well as post-surgical care and treatment.

Your surgical team will do everything possible to minimize bleeding but some blood loss is unavoidable. The need for blood transfusions after joint replacement surgery depends on various individual factors, so be sure to discuss your medical condition with your surgeon. You may have the option to donate your own blood before surgery to use if needed.

Hospital stay

After your surgery, you will be moved to Via Christi's orthopedic unit. Walking and movement are important to your recovery and you can expect to start moving the day after surgery. Movement helps to get your blood flowing, which helps prevent blood clots and swelling in your legs.

You will experience some discomfort and pain after surgery. Our nursing staff will help monitor that pain by asking you to rate your pain. Pain varies quite a bit from person to person, and with improved medications and anesthetic techniques, we are able to help control that pain and discomfort.

Therapists will teach you various exercises and techniques to help with your recovery, as well as getting used to your new joint.

Because of improvements in surgical techniques and post-op care, many patients are able to go home from the hospital after two to three days. For patients who require additional recovery time or for those who may not have a caregiver, Via Christi Rehabilitation Hospital provides the care and expertise to help with your healing process. Via Christi Therapy Centers in Wichita, Derby and Andover also provide skilled services.

Recovery

Based on individual factors, healing and recovery time vary from person to person. Most people need to use a walking aid, such as a walker for four weeks or so. You may need help with some household chores, including showering, in the first few weeks after surgery. Your ability to drive again will depend on your joint replacement and recovery; for example, a return to driving following a right knee implant will take longer than a left knee implant. Depending on the type of surgery and the success of your rehabilitation, full recovery may take about three to six months.

To give yourself the best chance of a successful surgery, it's important that you follow the post-surgery instructions that your care team has given to you. Proper exercise will continue to be important to reduce stiffness and increase flexibility and muscle strength with your new joint. You will be advised to continue physical therapy following your surgery and you will likely be given exercises to do on your own.

Risks

While hundreds of thousands of people have successful joint replacement surgery, it is a major surgery and as with any surgery there are risks. Your care team will take every step to minimize risks and complications.

While complications are relatively rare for most people, possible complications include:

  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Implant loosening
  • Fractures
  • Nerve or blood damage
  • Joint stiffness

Limitations

You can expect a better quality of life with your new joint, particularly if your old joint was causing chronic pain or interfering with normal, everyday activities.

Most replacement joints will last for at least more than a decade, but they are subject to wear and tear, and are impacted by your physical weight and condition and your lifestyle. 

Visit with your doctor or therapist about what kinds of activities you can do with your new joint. Exercise is generally recommended, but you may have some limitations. For example, some high-impact activities, such as basketball, jogging or tennis, may not be advisable for those with hip implants because those activities can damage or loosen implant parts.