The question is often asked, at what point should a patient and his or her physician begin to consider a total joint replacement?
In general, when the joint pain and dysfunction worsens due to worn joints, and when more conservative measures such as physical therapy, injections, oral medication, or a change to daily activities fail, it is time to consider a joint replacement. Diagnostic images are obtained to be able to view the arthritic changes in the joint and determine there is no additional underlying cause for joint pain and dysfunction. A joint replacement can offer improved ability to perform daily activities, as well as a reduction in pain, but it is important to consider several factors before deciding to undergo a total joint replacement.
What types of things should be considered?
The patient’s overall health and activity level can impact the recovery and the success of the surgery. It is important patients are medically optimized; they should lose excess weight, make sure certain chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension are controlled and well managed, be as active as possible leading up to the surgery, and be prepared to complete a full course of therapy after surgery. While there have been many advances in the implants used over the years, the general health and dedication of the patient to follow aftercare procedures and participate in therapy can make a difference in the outcome.
Do patients experience a lot of pain with a joint replacement?
Pain relief is certainly one of the reasons to consider a joint replacement, but after surgery the patient often continues to have some pain and discomfort until the joint and the surrounding tissues heal.
How can the pain be controlled?
There are several methods to reduce the post-surgical pain a patient might experience. For example, there are pain control blocks that allow patients to begin moving the joint quickly after surgery without the need for large doses of narcotic pain medication. We can manage post-surgical pain and swelling with medication in addition to methods such as icing the joint, compression, and elevation.
What should patients expect from a joint replacement?
As discussed, there are several factors that can affect the outcome so it is important that patients are fully educated about the process and understand what they can do to optimize the experience.
At Shelby Baptist Medical Center, we have developed a “joint camp” program that assists in this goal. Patients are not only educated about their procedure, but also about the facility, and what family and friends should expect the day of surgery. Patients are shown the exercises they will be expected to do after surgery to make sure they are comfortable with the movements, as this helps in their rehabilitation. During the joint camp, they are with other patients who are undergoing joint replacement surgery as well, so they often can get not only their questions answered but also hear what others are concerned about so it truly becomes a learning process. Ultimately, we are trying to get the patient back to his or her daily living at the highest pain-free level of functioning possible, as quickly as we can.
Want to learn more about joint replacement?
Patients should ultimately discuss their specific condition with a board certified orthopedic surgeon to develop a treatment plan. Anyone interested in learning more about our services can visit our website at: www.alabamaboneandjoint.com or call us at (205) 621-3778 to make an appointment to see one of our surgeons.
Dr. Daryl Dykes is a board certified orthopedic surgeon who practices at Alabama Bone and Joint Clinic located in Pelham. Alabama Bone and Joint Clinic currently has three orthopedic surgeons serving a wide variety of patient needs. Dr. Dykes sees patients for any spine, bone or joint condition, and specializes in reconstruction of the shoulder, hip, and knee.
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