By Dr Ankit Varshneya , Orthopaedics
What is joint replacement surgery?
Though we have only 206 bones, we have over 300 joints in the body. At any joint, the end of the bones is covered with cartilage that acts as a cushion and facilitates smooth movement. With age, this cartilage undergoes immense wear and tear. Injuries and certain conditions such as arthritis may worsen the condition of cartilage. Damaged cartilage not only makes movement difficult but also causes swelling and pain. When medication and physical therapy does not improve cartilage health, partial or complete joint replacement is often advised.
The hip and knee joints are the most commonly replaced joints. In some cases, the shoulder, fingers, elbows and ankle joints may also be replaced. If only part of the joint is replaced, it is known as a partial joint replacement. On the other hand, if the entire joint is affected and needs to be replaced, the procedure is known as a total joint replacement.
To replace a joint, prosthesis must first be made out of plastic, ceramic or metal. This may be joined to the existing bone with the help of cement or left uncemented. The former is used when people have weak bones and for people who cannot move around. An un-cemented joint takes longer to heal as compared to a cemented joint. This type of joint replacement is usually followed for younger patients with good bone quality. Once put in place prosthesis can last for 10-15 years. Hence, it may be necessary for a person to under joint replacement surgery more than once.
The surgery to replace a joint is performed under general anesthesia. The length of surgery varies from patient to patient and depends on the condition of the bones and the joint being replaced. After the surgery, a patient will need to stay in the hospital for a few days. In the case of a knee replacement or hip replacement, you may begin using the joint on the first day after surgery but physical therapy will be needed to strengthen the joint muscles and regain the complete spectrum of possible movement. Pain killers may also be prescribed to make the patient more comfortable.
Joint replacement surgery has a high success rate and is considered a relatively safe procedure. As with any other surgical procedure, there are a few issues that may arise. However, these are easily treatable.