Replacing Worn Joints


By: West Boca Medical Center Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers

Joint replacement surgery involves replacing a damaged joint with a new one called a prosthesis. These new joints usually are made of a metal, plastic or a ceramic device. Hips and knees are the joints replaced most often, but shoulders, ankles and elbows can be replaced as well.

Joint replacement is usually considered after exercise, walking aids, physical therapy or medications cannot relieve pain and improve mobility. Surgery for hip replacement patients, for example, can help lessen problems walking or make it easier to bend. Joint damage is caused by osteoarthritis, injuries, other diseases, and joint wear caused by avascular necrosis, which is the loss of bone caused by low blood supply.

Before surgery, the surgeon evaluates the patient’s range of motion and joint strength, takes a medical history and take X-rays to determine the extent of your damage. The doctor may put a small, lighted tube called an arthoscope into the joint to check for damage. In some cases, only the damaged parts would be replaced, not the entire joint. During a hip replacement surgery, diseased or damaged bone and tissue is removed and a metal stem and attached ball is then inserted into the bone and a cup is inserted into the socket of the hip joint.

New joints can be cemented into place to hold the new joint to the bone, this is called cemented prosthesis. Another way is by the prosthesis being placed without cement so bone can grow and attach to it. A prosthesis is designed to duplicate the mechanical properties of the joint being replaced. A prosthetic knee, for example, will be flexible enough to bend without breaking and strong enough to bear weight.

Most hip and knee replacement patients are discharged from the hospital one to three days after surgery. Patients will be encouraged to perform specific exercises recommended by their doctors to help the recovery process. Pain after surgery is normal as it comes from the lack of activity and healing tissues.

A majority of patients who undergo joint replacement surgery find it easier to perform daily activities and experience less pain throughout their lives. Following hip replacement surgery, most patients will be able to swim, play golf or ride a bike comfortably.

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