Answers To Common Joint Replacement Questions

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Once conservative treatment measures, like medication and physical therapy, no longer control the joint pain and stiffness of arthritis, you may need to consider surgery.

Following are common questions about joint replacement surgery to help you make the decision and know what to expect. As always, discuss your questions and concerns with your physician.

If I have joint replacement surgery, how much of my pain will be relieved?

The goal of joint replacement surgery is to eliminate at least 80 percent of the arthritic pain that you have been experiencing before surgery. The degree of pain relief varies patient to patient. How much pain relief you experience from joint replacement depends in part on your following the instructions of your health care providers, including your physical therapist. Other factors, such as smoking and other medical conditions, can impact the amount of pain relief that joint replacement provides you.

Am I too young for joint replacement surgery?

No one is too young for joint replacement surgery. But the younger you are, the greater the chance that your joint replacement will have to be redone later in life. If pain is preventing you from living life to its fullest, don’t let concerns about your age prevent you from considering surgery.

Is joint replacement covered by my health insurance?

All insurance carriers vary in the coverage they provide. Check with your insurance carrier about your coverage and what your costs may be.

What are the risks involved with joint replacement surgery?

All surgery has potential risks and can vary patient to patient. Discuss your surgical risks directly with your surgeon.

Will I need to lose weight before surgery?

Possibly. If your body mass index (BMI) is high, losing weight can help reduce your risk of complications during and after surgery, including the risk of infection. If you have concerns, please discuss them with your surgeon.

Will I need any tests or medical evaluations prior to joint replacement surgery?

Yes. You will complete preadmission testing to help your surgical team meet your needs during surgery, reduce your risk, and determine if you can safely undergo surgery.

How long will my joint replacement surgery last?

Several factors determine how long your joint replacement will last, including age, activity level, and weight. On average, joint replacements last 10 to 15 years.

How physically active can I be with a new joint?

Your health care providers will advise you on what your new joint can and can’t do as you progress in your recovery. After your recovery period, you should be able to resume favorite activities that you had to forego due to arthritic pain. Some restrictions may continue. Always check with your health care provider if you are uncertain about whether an activity is recommended or not.

You will need to follow up with your surgeon after discharge as directed. You will also need to follow up with your primary care provider for nonsurgical health issues. You may return to the hospital for physical therapy but will not return to the inpatient unit where you were cared for after surgery.

How long will I be in the hospital?

A typical stay following joint replacement surgery can vary depending upon your individual needs. Patients who qualify may be eligible for discharge on the same day as surgery. Your individual needs will be reviewed before your discharge from the hospital is initiated.

Will I have a lot of pain after my joint replacement surgery?

All surgeries involve incisions and manipulation of the body, so you will have pain. Everyone reacts differently to pain and pain control treatments. Your health care providers will work with you to keep your pain at a manageable level and to keep you comfortable.

How will my pain be controlled?

A combination of therapies is often used to reduce pain:

  • Intravenous (IV) medications
  • Oral (by mouth) medications
  • Non-pharmacological treatments, including ice, positioning, and distraction techniques

Your doctor may suggest a tube that provides numbing agents to the surgical area, or you may take pills that dull the pain. Some pills will be given to you on a schedule, and you will not have to ask for them. Other pills may be ordered as needed. Let your nurse know if you need extra pills as soon as you start to feel pain.

If you are already on pain medication before surgery, be sure to tell your doctor prior to your procedure. You can take your medications with a sip of water one to two hours before surgery.

What kind of anesthesia will be used? Are there possible side effects or risks? Will I meet with the anesthesiologist in advance? Will he or she know my needs and allergies?

Anesthesia approaches vary and include general sedation and spinal anesthesia. An anesthesiologist will meet with you the day of surgery. Talk to your anesthesiologist about any concerns you have or problems you have had with anesthesia. Your medication list and allergies, updated at preadmission testing, will again be reviewed by the anesthesiologist.

What will my recovery involve? How long will recovery take?

Recovery varies for everyone. Your health care team will assist you in your recovery. Many surgeries require hospital admissions of two to four days, but recovery continues at home after your stay.

Medications frequently change after surgery, during your active recovery period, and will generally include pain medications. Other techniques used to help you recover include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Continued medical supervision
  • Assistive devices, such as canes, and walkers, which may be required for a short time
  • Other devices, such as ice machines

Instructions for continued recovery at home will be reviewed with you before you leave the hospital to help you understand what needs to be done after your stay.

When can I return to work? When can I drive my car?

This will vary depending on your recovery and on your surgeon’s advice. The usual recommendation is that you may resume driving when you no longer require narcotic pain medication or an assistive device, such as a cane or walker.

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