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What Is Total Joint Replacement Surgery?

This procedure is done to remove an arthritic or damaged joint and replace it with a prosthetic (artificial joint). Patients may require total joint replacement for knees, hips, ankles, feet, elbows, and shoulders. 

Why Is It Done?

When the cartilage inside your joint is damaged, it causes friction between the joint bones, which can be very painful. Often you can be treated with pain relievers,physical therapy, and other conservative measures. You might also consider partial joint replacement and joint resurfacing, but here are circumstances when total joint replacement may be warranted:

  • You are still in pain, even after conservative treatment.
  • Your joint is severely damaged.
  • You are age 60 or older. 

Joint replacements can last anywhere from 10 to 20 years. If you are younger than age 60, you may require more than one joint replacement in your lifetime. Learn more about our Joint Replacement Surgery Centers.

How to Prepare

Prior to your surgery, you will meet with your doctor to discuss any concerns you have. You may be advised to refrain from eating and drinking anything for several hours before the procedure. You should also tell your doctor about all medications you are taking, since you may need to temporarily stop taking them. Also, be sure you have made plans for any post-surgery help you may need at home. 

What to Expect

Depending on your situation, you will be given a local or a general anesthetic. Then your surgeon will make an incision at the affected joint and remove the damaged ends of the bones and cartilage. Those will be replaced by prosthetic devices made of metal and plastic. These materials are designed to move just as natural joints do. 

For knee, hip, ankle, and foot surgery, you may need to initially walk with crutches or a cane. You may feel pain around the new joint as your muscles adjust and strengthen. You doctor may suggest physical therapy to help you get stronger. Depending on what joint was replaced, your recovery time may be a few days or a few weeks. However, you may be discouraged from participating in strenuous sports such as running. In general, total joint replacement is successful 90 percent of the time.


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