What is osteoarthritis?
Cartilage covers the ends of bones between joints. This tough, smooth tissue helps cushion the bones when they move with very little friction. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, usually occurs in people over age 50. It occurs over time when the protective cartilage softens and wears away. It exposes the ends of the bones and allows them to rub against each other, resulting in pain and reduced motion or stiffness. Arthritis occurs as the result of disease, trauma or repetitive movement, or sometimes for no apparent reason at all. It can affect one joint or many, often in the knee or hip.
What are the most frequent complications?
Because hip and knee replacement surgeries are the most successful medical procedures performed today, most surgeries have no complications. When complications do arise, most can be successfully treated. Infection, blood clots and nerve damage are the most serious complications.
How long will my new joint last?
Although all implants have a limited life expectancy that varies based on your age, weight, activity level and overall health, most implants can be expected to last 15-20 years or more.
Will it be painful?
You will receive some kind of anesthesia during surgery. Afterward, you will feel some pain, but we will provide medications to keep you as comfortable as possible. After surgery, most patients control their pain with a pump that delivers the pain medication directly into their IV. Your surgeon and your care team will work with you to keep you as comfortable as possible throughout your joint replacement experience. When you are discharged from the hospital, you will receive instructions on how to manage your pain at home with behavior modification, ice therapy and oral pain medications.
What kind of anesthesia will I have during surgery?
The surgery will take approximately one to two hours. During this time, you will receive an anesthetic to control the pain in one of two ways. General anesthesia is where you are put to sleep. Spinal or epidural anesthesia numbs you from the waist down but does not put you to sleep. You, your surgeon and your anesthesiologist will determine which type of anesthesia will be best for you.
Will I have a scar?
There are several different techniques used for joint replacement surgery. The particular technique used will determine the location and length of the scar. Your surgeon will discuss which technique is best for you.
How long will I be in the hospital?
Most joint replacement patients will be hospitalized for three days following surgery. Any stay longer than three days is generally related to medical issues only.
How do I make arrangements for surgery?
After your surgeon has scheduled surgery, a Joint Care Coordinator will contact you and make arrangements for both pre-op and post-op care.
Will I need help walking?
Patients all progress at different rates. Normally we recommend that you use a walker, crutches or a cane for four to six weeks. Your Joint Care Coordinator can arrange for them if necessary.
Where will I go after leaving the hospital?
Most patients are able to go home directly after being discharged from the hospital. Some patients transfer to a step-down rehab facility where they will stay from three to five days. Your Joint Care Coordinator will help you make the necessary arrangements. Check with your insurance company to find out if you have step-down benefits.
What if I live alone?
Depending on your insurance coverage, you will have three options: (1) you can go home and receive help from a relative or friend; (2) you can go home and have a home health nurse and physical therapist visit you; or (3) you may transfer to a skilled nursing or rehab facility.
Will I need help at home?
Yes, for the first few days or weeks depending on your progress. You will need help with meals, laundry, etc. If you go directly home from the hospital, you should have family or friends who will be available to help when needed. Preparing ahead of time, before your surgery, can minimize the amount of help you will need after surgery.
Is therapy necessary when I leave the hospital?
Yes. You will have either out-patient or in-home physical therapy; patients are encouraged to use outpatient physical therapy. Your Joint Care Coordinator will help you arrange for an out-patient physical therapy appointment. If you need physical therapy at home, he or she will arrange for a physical therapist to provide therapy in your home. Following this, you may go to an out-patient facility to assist in your rehabilitation. The length of time physical therapy is necessary varies with each patient.
Will my new joint set off security sensors?
Your new joint may or may not set off some security devices. Inform the security agent that you have a metal implant. The agent will direct you through appropriate security screening procedures. You can carry a medic alert card indicating that you have an artificial joint, but the card will not allow you to skip security checks so allow extra time to get to your destination.