Joint Replacement: Going Under the Knife
Andrew M. Star, MD
Medical Director of the Orthopaedic and Spine Institute at Abington Health
Joint replacement surgery has been around since the 1970s, helping restore mobility to hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. As surgical techniques become less invasive and recovery times grow shorter, people who previously would not consider entering an operating room are now contemplating doing just that. You can learn more about the procedure at Dr. Star’s live web chat: Joint Replacement: Are You a Candidate for Minimally Invasive Hip or Knee Replacement?
By today’s standards, joint replacement surgery is not a complicated procedure. As the name implies, it involves replacing a damaged or worn away joint with a new one. Depending on the surgeon and any complicating factors, the procedure may take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. Patients are given an anesthetic, either local or general.
The specifics vary according to what joint is being replaced, but advances in medical science have greatly improved the recovery process for patients. In the past, hip replacements took longer to heal and often required patients to take special precautions such as using a walker or avoiding crossing their legs for days. Today, the procedure is so streamlined so that most patients spend approximately one to two days in the hospital after the surgery.
Although advances in knee replacement techniques haven’t been quite as dramatic, they now require smaller incisions and less tissue damage, which means shorter hospital stays and faster rehabilitation. There have also been improvements in preemptive pain management, in which anti-inflammatory and pain medications are administered before the patient is actually feeling any discomfort.
It’s normal to feel some numbness or soreness after surgery, as your body continues to heal. But for the most part, patients begin walking again the same day as their surgery and can resume most normal activities such as driving in a week or two.
Join Dr. Star’s live Health Chat with Abington Health on Thursday, January 16th at 7 pm: Joint Replacement: Are You a Candidate for Minimally Invasive Hip or Knee Replacement? Sign up now.