What You Should Know About Joint Replacement Surgery

Joint Replacement Surgery

As people age, the number of health factors that need monitored can grow. Heart health, weight, diet, the list can go on. But something most people tend to overlook that’s imperative to maintaining wellbeing is joint health.

Whether writing a quick note or running a marathon, joints are what keep the human body moving. And, people should do everything possible to ensure their joints are fully functional and pain free.

Solution to Joint Pain

The first thing people need to know, especially those ages 50 and older, is joint pain is not something to “just live with.”

Any damage to a major joint – say the knee or hip – is serious. Pain resulting from injury, physical activity or gradual breakdown of cartilage can increase in severity if not properly cared for by the right type of physician. More often than not, joint replacement surgery – total or partial – is the recommended solution for a majority of serious pain or immobility cases.

If a person is experiencing joint pain or is a confirmed candidate for joint replacement surgery, he or she should already be seeing an orthopaedic surgeon.

If not, finding a qualified surgeon may seem like a difficult task. But it really comes down to a few factors: the surgeon’s training, experience and specialization and where the joint replacement surgery will take place.

Orthopaedic Surgeons

Statistics show that joint replacement surgery outcomes improve as volumes increase. Similarly, training and education can influence outcomes in joint replacement surgery. Orthopaedic surgeons frequently have additional training in their particular sub-specialties known as fellowships.

Most of the orthopaedic surgeons at the Crystal Clinic have fellowship training and perform the highest volume of joint replacement procedures in the area. It is often those surgeons with both sub-specialty training and higher volumes who have the best results.

Type of Hospital

In addition to choosing the right orthopaedic surgeon, careful consideration should go into the location of the surgery itself.

Though hospitals are places where a variety of people are treated for an even wider variety of ailments, that doesn’t necessarily mean general hospitals are the best places for elective orthopaedic surgery.

Hospital-contracted illnesses are part of reality. Areas with high numbers of people undergoing treatments for medical problems and infections, such as pneumonia, are breeding grounds for the germs that contribute to everything from the common cold to surgical site infection.

Single-specialty hospitals, such as the Crystal Clinic Orthopaedic Center at St. Thomas Hospital, generally treat patients in good overall health. Orthopaedic patients undergoing elective joint replacement in a single-specialty hospital are somewhat insulated from infectious or contagious disease.

In addition, the staff at the Crystal Clinic Orthopaedic Center specializes in the treatment of joint replacement and other elective orthopaedic problems. Again, this is an example of how sub-specialization makes a difference.

The average orthopaedic program performing joint replacement should have a post-surgery infection rate of 1.0 percent or less. Crystal Clinic Orthopaedic Center has been at or below that industry standard during each quarterly measuring period.

Type of Procedure

Orthopaedic expertise and the type of facility dovetail with another important factor in determining the best option for joint replacement surgery: technology – recognize that it is constantly changing.

Most joint replacement surgeries can be minimally invasive, a type of surgery with multiple patient benefits. The size of the incision is much smaller, resulting in less dissection and damage to normal tissues and patients generally feel less pain following surgery and have faster recovery times.

Joint Implants

Along with the type of procedure, patients should be aware of the type of implant being used to replace their damaged joints. Implants that mimic normal human anatomy and function are more successful and have increased longevity.

One of the more successful materials used to build joint implants is highly cross-linked polyethylene. This material wears down at a slower rate than previously used polyethylene, which has increased the durability of hip and knee replacements.

Most Common Replacements: Knee and Hip

The most common joints replaced in the United States are the knee and hip. As a result, a number of advancements have been made in these areas.

Both joints are typically replaced with a combination of titanium and highly cross-linked polyethylene implants, which have helped to improve success rates. Modular components are now used in both hip and knee replacements, allowing for easy “revision” of worn out joints.

Most hip replacements are performed with titanium implants and inserted without cement. These “cement-less” hip replacements last longer than their cemented counterparts and, when combined with modular highly cross-linked polyethylene inserts, allow our surgeons to perform replacements in younger patients.

Questions to Ask

It’s a lot of information about a complex topic but, when it comes to personal health, the patient should be empowered to research their options. Here are some questions to ask before surgery:

  • “How long have you been practicing?”
  • “What is your specialty or area of interest?”
  • “Where will my surgery be performed?”
  • “How many of these procedures do you perform per year?”
  • “What are the infection rates for this procedure in your experience?”
  • “Will my surgery be minimally invasive?”
  • “What type of implant will be used?”
  • “Is there anything I should know or do based on my individual circumstances?”

These aren’t the only questions to ask before surgery, but they are a good start. Being comfortable with the orthopaedic surgeon and understanding the procedure are vital.