8 Things to Consider Before Joint Replacement Surgery
Joint replacement surgeries in the U.S. are on the rise – at a rate that is alarming to many health officials. Based on trends from 2000-2014, experts are predicting hip and knee replacement surgeries to grow 70-85% by the year 2030.1
Don’t let the popularity of the surgeries fool you. The facts indicate that joint replacement surgery may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
- A 2014 study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology classified 34% of knee replacements as “inappropriate” based on the age and symptoms of patients.2
- As joint replacement patients are getting younger, concerns are arising in regard to patients outliving and wearing out replacement joints, leading to complex revision surgeries.
- 1 in 3 knee replacement patients and 1 in 5 hip replacement patients report being in chronic pain after the surgery2.
Read on to learn the 8 things you should consider before undergoing joint replacement surgery. The list includes a non-surgical alternative that has helped many find lasting pain relief without surgery – even those who were told they were “bone-on-bone.”
Risks and Complications of Joint Replacement Surgery
Total knee replacements and hip replacements are becoming quite common. But, remember that these are both major surgeries that require detaching and reattaching a limb. Risks of these surgeries include complications from anesthesia, blood clots, infection, complications from blood transfusion, allergic reactions to materials in replacement joint, wound healing and bleeding complications, nerve damage, scar tissue build up, loss of range of motion, chronic pain, implant problems and/or failure, and death.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about factors which make you more or less likely to suffer serious complications from joint replacement surgery.
Joint Surgery Recovery Time Can Be Weeks to Months
Recovery time varies by individual. Some patients will spend their first few days of recovery in the hospital, while some are sent home hours after the procedure. Once home, it will take several months to more than a year to fully recover from joint replacement surgery. For hip replacement, you can expect to get back to most activities after 6-8 weeks, but it will take up to a year for additional recovery. Recovering from knee replacement surgery takes longer. Most people will be 80% recovered after 8 weeks, with full recovery taking as long as 12-18 months. During recovery, you will need someone to help you with daily activities. You may also be prescribed exercise and/or physical therapy.
It is important to understand how your recovery time will impact your day-to-day life.
Painful Scar Tissue Will Form After Joint Replacement Surgery
As a normal part of the healing process, your body will create scar tissue in and around the new joint. Scar tissue is a tight, fibrous tissue that forms in random, criss-cross patterns. It has poor circulation, is weak, and is prone to reinjury. It also has more pain receptors than normal tissue, making it sensitive to pain. Scar tissue is not very flexible and can restrict the range of motion in your new joint. Over time, the scar tissue that is laid down in a joint will calcify and turn into arthritis – regardless of whether the joint is artificial or natural.
Be aware that painful scar tissue will form after joint replacement surgery.
Post-Surgical Pain is Common, Even After Recovery
One of the primary reasons for getting a knee or hip replacement is to relieve pain brought on by osteoarthritis in the joint. It is important to know that post-surgical pain is fairly common after joint replacement surgery. For many, the pain is mild. For some, it is more severe. As many as one third of patients reported being in chronic pain after knee replacement surgery. For hip replacements, long-term pain was reported by up to 23% of patients.2
It is important understand that you may have significant pain after joint replacement surgery.
Will You Outlive Your New Joint?
Today’s replacement joints last anywhere from 10-20 years on average. The younger you are when a joint is replaced, the better the chance that you will outlive your replacement joint. This is due to two factors. First, is simply life span. If you get the surgery at age 55 and the joint lasts 20 years, it will likely need to be replaced at age 75. Now, you’re facing a complicated revision surgery at a much older age when you are not likely to be as healthy. Secondly, younger people tend to be more active, increasing the chances of wearing out the new joint.
Replacing a replacement joint is known as a revision surgery. Revision surgeries are much more complicated than the original joint replacement surgery. They are longer, require specialized skill and instruments, and have higher complication rates.
The statistics for revision surgeries are frightening. For total knee replacements, the 5-year survival rate after the initial surgery is 95.9% but drops to 81.0% after a revision surgery. For hip replacement, the survival rate drops from 97.2% to 87.4% after a revision surgery. Additionally, patients who underwent one revision surgery were 5-6 times more likely to have to undergo a second revision surgery.3
It’s a good idea to keep your “original equipment” (i.e. your natural joint) for a long as you can by seeking non-invasive options to reduce pain and improve joint function.
Surgery Rarely Fixes the Root Cause of Chronic Pain
While considering joint replacement, it is important to understand that what you’re fixing might not be the true, root cause of your pain. Yes, your knees or hips are painfully worn out. But how did they get that way? Is weight an issue? Are there other musculoskeletal issues that contributed to the wearing of your joints? Have those issues been addressed?
If you replace the joint without addressing the contributing factors, the replacement surgery may not be as successful as you might hope.
There’s No Going Back
Every reputable doctor will tell you that joint replacement surgery should be a last resort. Why? Because there is simply no going back once you’ve had the surgery. If something goes wrong, your options are limited as far as what can be done to fix a failed joint replacement. Most likely, the only option you will have is a complex joint revision surgery.
It is in your best interest to explore all treatment options before undergoing knee or hip replacement surgery. This includes getting second opinions from multiple sources.
Non-Surgical Alternatives Do Exist
You’ve tried exercise. You’ve lost weight. You’ve completed physical therapy. You’ve done injections, and you’re still in pain. Your doctor may have even told you that joint replacement is your only option for pain relief. However, not all doctors are aware of the strides that are being made outside of traditional orthopedic surgery centers and physical therapy clinics for non-surgical pain relief.
Laser Therapy and Non-Surgical Treatments in Cedar Rapids
InMotion Pain Solutions, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, specializes in non-invasive, drug-free alternatives to joint replacement surgery. The cornerstone of our care, High Intensity Laser Therapy, has helped many of our patients find pain relief without the risks of surgery. Even patients who have been told that they are “bone-on-bone” have been able to cancel their joint replacement surgery in favor of our more conservative treatment approach.
It is our goal to keep you in your “original equipment” while enjoying a life with less pain for as long as possible. We encourage anyone who is considering joint replacement surgery to contact our Cedar Rapids clinic for a no-cost, no-obligation second opinion.
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- Sloan M, Premkumar A, Sheth NP. Projected Volume of Primary Total Joint Arthroplasty in the U.S., 2014 to 2030. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2018;100(17):1455–1460. doi:10.2106/JBJS.17.01617
- Riddle, D.L., Jiranek, W.A. and Hayes, C.W. (2014), Use of a Validated Algorithm to Judge the Appropriateness of Total Knee Arthroplasty in the United States: A Multicenter Longitudinal Cohort Study. Arthritis & Rheumatology, 66: 2134-2143. doi:1002/art.38685
- Beswick AD, Wylde V, Gooberman-Hill R, Blom A, Dieppe P. What proportion of patients report long-term pain after total hip or knee replacement for osteoarthritis? A systematic review of prospective studies in unselected patients. BMJ Open. 2012;2(1):e000435. Published 2012 Feb 22. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000435
- Weber M, Renkawitz T, Voellner F, et al. Revision Surgery in Total Joint Replacement Is Cost-Intensive. Biomed Res Int. 2018;2018:8987104. Published 2018 Sep 25. doi:10.1155/2018/8987104