Our joints are fragile — prone to injury and wear and tear. One option for treating severe joint pain that can’t be resolved any other way is total joint replacement.

What is total joint replacement?

Total joint replacement means that the surgeon removes the damaged part of the joint and replaces it with a prosthetic. The prosthetic is designed to act like a normal, healthy joint. Most commonly, hips and knees are replaced, but other joints may also be replaced. The difference is that hips and knees, because they constantly bear weight, are more likely to wear out.

Many types of joints can be replaced. Knees are “hinge” joints, which bend and straighten like a door, while your hip and shoulder are “ball-and-socket” joints. You need a surgeon who is familiar with the specific replacement you require. The surgery has seen quite a few advances lately, including more durable replacements and dual mobility articulation for improved stability and cementless fixation, which reduces wear on the bone. Joint replacements typically last at least 15 years, with knees being more durable than hips.

Who needs total joint replacement?

Total joint replacement is typically recommended for people who have pain and disability in a joint, whether from arthritis or an injury such as a fracture, which can’t be relieved by other means such as medication and physical therapy.

How to prepare for surgery

Before your surgery, you will need a number of tests, including blood tests and a cardiogram. Make sure to talk to your doctor about the procedure, including asking what kind of prosthesis they intend to use, how long you will be in the hospital and any other questions you may have. Always talk about pain management before the surgery, especially if you have strong feelings about certain painkillers.

You should also:

  • Make sure you have your insurance information handy.
  • Find a friend or family member to drive you to and from the hospital and help you with post-surgical instructions when you may be groggy.
  • A list of your medications, health problems and prior surgeries. Your surgeon may ask you to stop taking some medications or supplements right before your surgery.
  • Bring your advance directives, if you have made any.
  • Prepare enough meals to last you for a week or two after the surgery, as you may not be able to cook.
  • Apply for a temporary disabled parking permit.
  • Remove your throw rugs and area rugs, fasten electrical and network cables to the side of the room and otherwise clear your home of trip hazards.

Don’t drink right before your surgery. Make plans for after the surgery. You may need somebody to stay with you for a few days if you live on your own.

Follow all of your surgeon’s instructions. Most people who have this surgery don’t regret it. They go on to live a pain-free life with considerably improved mobility. To find out more, including if you are a candidate for total joint replacement surgery, contact Missouri Orthopedics & Advanced Sports Medicine today.