It wasn’t all that long ago that people whose hips or knees were riddled with arthritis or damaged through earlier injuries had to give up some physical activities and accept a diminished quality of life. That is no longer the case. Millions of Americans now maintain active lifestyles well into advanced age due to joint replacements.
Additionally, many people who’ve had a joint replaced may assume that, if it starts to create issues later, there are no solutions. But again, that’s no longer true. Sometimes artificial joints wear out, become infected or damaged with time. As an orthopedic surgeon, in addition to learning about how to do initial hip and knee replacements, I was trained in more complex cases like replacing joint replacements – which is called revision reconstructive surgery.
How much pain are you having?
The first clue that your joint – or joint replacement – may need to be evaluated is how much pain you are in. I’ve seen patients whose x-rays look bad, but since they are not experiencing significant pain or are not having to limit their daily activities, they may not need surgery or even an evaluation by an orthopedic specialist at that time.
However, if your joint is unstable or you have pain severe enough to restrict your daily activities, it may be time to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician or an orthopedic specialist. While you may put off making an appointment because you’re concerned that we’ll recommend surgery, we generally start with conservative treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy or therapeutic injections.
When surgery is recommended
Surgery becomes the most likely option if conservative management treatments, such as anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy or injections are not providing sufficient pain relief. And, if you do need surgery, it may interest you to know that the majority of joint replacements are done as outpatient surgeries, as long as it is medically safe, and you have adequate help at home.
If you had a previous joint replacement and are having continued pain or newer pain, we would look at whether the joint needs to be replaced again. Joints can fail due to infection, wear of the implants or
One thing to keep in mind, if it turns out that you are needing to have joint replacement, is your weight. If you are overweight, I may encourage you to lose some weight before surgery – simply because being significantly overweight increases your risk of complications in the healing process.
Outpatient joint surgery is the norm
If you’ve been told that at some point you may need to face having a joint replaced, you may be glad to know that the vast majority of patients report being pleased with the results. We know that chronic knee problems, such as those caused by serious deterioration due to arthritis, are high on the list of the most debilitating pain patients encounter. In these cases, joint replacement provides an immeasurable benefit of an enhanced quality of life over the long term.
If you need us, we’re here
If you’re having pain, the first step may be to talk to your primary care provider, who can prescribe medication or physical therapy and may even administer cortisone injections. If those options fail to provide adequate relief and you’d like to learn more, call (574) 534-2548 to schedule an appointment.
Kyle Carlson, DO, is an orthopedic surgeon with Goshen Physicians Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. He is fellowship trained in adult reconstruction orthopedic surgery and specializes in total joint replacement of hips and knees. Dr. Carlson has advanced training and experience in treating complex cases. He specializes in adult revisions to joint replacements and treatment for conditions caused by degenerative diseases, including arthritis.