Joint Replacement - FAQs
Joint replacement is a surgical procedure in which an orthopedic surgeon will remove parts of an arthritic or damaged joint and replace it with an artificial joint made of metal, plastic or a ceramic device called a prosthesis. The artificial joint is carefully designed to replicate the movement of a normal, healthy joint. For more information about joint replacement surgery, explore the following frequently asked questions:
How do I know if I need a joint replacement?
Joint pain alone is not a sufficient enough reason for having a joint replacement. Prolonged pain (more than 6 months) that does not improve with conservative non-surgical means, and affects your normal movement and day-to-day life, would qualify you for a joint replacement. This is a personal decision made by consulting your primary care physician and orthopedic surgeon.
How long is the surgery?
Knee replacements usually take 1 ½ to 2 hours. Hip replacements usually take 2 to 2 ½ hours.
How long is the hospital stay?
Usually one to two days depending on how quickly you progress. Many patients are able to go home the day after surgery.
When can I drive after surgery?
You may need to be on strong pain medication for up to six weeks, so driving is not recommended during this time. Your doctor will advise you when you're safe to drive again.
Should I avoid physical activity after recovering from surgery?
No. Exercising is strongly encouraged following surgery. You should get about 30 minutes of low-impact aerobic exercise at least three times a week. Walking, biking and swimming are all examples of appropriate exercise for a joint replacement patient. Your doctor will work with you to develop a safe exercise regime after surgery.
How long does it take to fully recover from a joint replacement surgery?
Recovery following a joint replacement is a continual process that involves gradual progress. However, a full recovery is normally achieved between 6 and 12 months. Very few patients will need walking assistance after they fully recover. Many people can return to work between three and eight weeks depending on strength, stamina and pain reduction. Recovery time also depends on your overall health, activity level and medical conditions before surgery.
What are the risks of surgery?
There are general risks with any type of surgery. They include, but are not limited to, the possibility of blood clots in the legs (DVTs); blood clots in the lungs (PEs); blood clots in the tissues around the incision (hematoma); uncontrollable bleeding; wound infection; heart attack or stroke.
How long will a new joint last?
Studies show that around 80% of joint replacement patients can expect their new joint to last them up to 20 years.