One of the most popular questions we get involving Orthopedic Surgery is “what are the benefits of joint replacement surgery?” In most cases, there are many benefits to the surgery, but it is important to know when and if you should undergo any hip or knee replacement surgery. It’s also good to know what complications can come with it and what you need to do after the operation to make it the most effective. It’s important to remember that despite everything written here, it’s necessary to talk to your doctor about all pros and cons of joint replacement surgery, and to ask any questions you can think of before you make a decision.
So to start out with, what should you be experiencing before you commit to replacement surgery? Top orthopedic doctors in the field, such as Jeffrey Nugent at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, GA., suggest replacements if you experience any sleeplessness at night due to pain. Or the pain is preventing one from everyday activities, such as shopping, vacationing, and visiting friends. Also, medications no longer relieve the pain, or attempts at relieving the pain with different medications don’t help. And finally, everyday necessities become difficult to do, such as using the bathroom, stairs, or even sitting and standing.
Now that we’ve explored what you should be experiencing before getting the surgery, it’s a good time to explain what exactly you’re paying for with a joint replacement surgery. The most obvious benefit of replacement surgery would be pain relief. Other than that, those that undergo surgery experience a restoration of a wider range of movement in the affected joints, as well as an improvement in how well the limb functions, how it looks and the alignment of the joint or joints. It’s important to know that it can take up to a week before you will notice a dramatic drop in your affected joints, and the first 24-48 hours after surgery can be more painful than before. It’s also good to know swelling can persist up to 6 months after surgery, and numbness around the incision is normal as well.
As to be expected, any operation comes with its own after-the-fact risks or complications, and surgeries such as a shoulder replacement is no exception. It’s possible to experience issues such as joint stiffness or pain, damage to the nerves or vessels in the reconstructed region, infection, or dislocation. It’s also possible that the implant will loosen, fracture, or wear down, resulting in need of additional surgeries for replacements or repairs. Risks can also come from the type of implant used in the operation. The different metals included range from Titanium to Cobalt to Chromium.
Titanium, mostly used in knee and hip replacements, can be used as Titanium Tetrachloride in medical implants. It can cause irritation in the lungs, eyes, mucous membranes and skin. They suggest getting a Titanium blood test if you fear exposure from your metal-on-metal hip implant. Cobalt can be an issue if it finds its way into your blood, as anything above .17 millionth of a gram per litter of blood can be dangerous to the body. Symptoms of Cobalt exposure include tinnitus, irritability, anxiety, headaches, fatigue, a decline in cognitive skills, and even impaired heart function. Chromium exposure presents some of the highest dangers. It occurs when implants are oxidized. Symptoms include immune problems, such as irritation of the lungs, rashes, fatigue, etc.
After completing surgery, there will be things you need to do to make sure your replaced joints work properly and for the long haul. One of the most basic, yet essential, tools your doctor will give you in aiding your recovery will be pain medication. As I mentioned above, you can expect the pain from surgery to last up to 48 hours, while it’s perfectly normal to still feel the pain from your joints even up to 6 months from your operation. As well as that, your doctor will most definitely establish a therapy routine for you. Therapy, whether for total knee replacements, or full hip replacements, or any other type of joint implant, is the most important part, as it’ll help your body get used to the strange new object(s) helping your body move as one again.