Joint replacement surgeries, also known as replacement arthroplasty are procedures commonly employed to replace arthritic or dysfunctional joint surfaces with orthopedic prosthesis. This is a major type of surgery and is only considered when non-invasive interventions like medications, physiotherapy, etc do not help in treatment of extreme joint pains or dysfunction.
The procedure basically involves cutting off the damaged or diseased part of the bone joint and replacing it with man-made material (prosthesis). Thought the rehabilitation phase of the surgery can be uncomfortable, at the end of day, do remember that you will finally be able to move more comfortably, become independent and feel much lower levels of pain. The joints that are commonly replaced include the knees and hips, and to a lesser extent, shoulders, ankles, elbows and fingers.
In spite of the heavy costs of joint replacement surgeries in India, about 1,20,000 knee replacement surgeries and 70,000 hip replacement surgeries take place every year in the country.
With advancing technology, the commonly experienced shortcomings to this surgery have been minimized to a large extent and exercise programs to reduce the swelling and stiffness in the new joint have been vastly improved too. With the advent of keyhole surgery, surgical wounds are smaller, damage to surrounding tissues and muscles is lower and recovery time and hospitalization have all been minimized. In some people, the joints may become worn out after 20-25 years, depending on their use and need replacment; in most cases, these secondary surgeries aren’t as complicated, with only the prosthetic needing to be changed.
Current researchers in the field of orthopaedics are mired in controversies. Some of these include:
– The best bearing surface, whether it should be metal-metal, ceramic-ceramic or metal/polyethylene.
– Use of cemented vs. un-cemented fixation of the new joint components.
– To use minimally invasive surgery or traditional incisions.
With advancements happening regularly in surgical techniques, arthroplasty shouldn’t be a cause for worry. However, you should make it a point to find out as much as you can about this technique, the procedure and recovery and rehabilitation time. Though it takes about a year for some patients to be 100% normal, those who did their homework prior to surgery had remarkably better recovery and greater improvement after surgery. You will also need to discuss with your surgeon about the kind of physical sports and activities you intend to indulge in after recovery, so he can choose the right type of material for your prosthesis.
Finally – all the best!