More than 1 million Americans have a hip or knee replaced each year, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. This procedure can relieve the chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis and help people return to the activities they enjoy. Here, Edgar A. Fike, IV, MD, an Orthopedic Surgeon with the Joint Replacement Institute at St. Mary's Regional Medical Center, answers some frequently asked questions.
Q: Should I have joint replacement surgery?
This is a very personal decision, and it’s different for everybody. There are many non-surgical ways to treat joint pain, such as with medication or physical therapy. If you’ve tried all those and you’re still not pain-free, you should talk with your doctor. Your decision should not be based on your age or what your X-rays show. Ultimately, it comes down to whether you can tolerate your discomfort and do the things you want to do.
Q: How has this procedure changed?
Over the years, it has changed dramatically. The length of hospital stay used to be up to a week. Today, the majority of patients go home one or two days after surgery. Most of their pain is well controlled, the implants are better and the medications are better. At St. Mary’s, we place a big emphasis on preparing patients for the surgery and talking with them about what to expect. When their expectations are met, they do better.
Q: Will I be able to walk after the surgery?
You can expect to be up and walking shortly after your surgery. You will start out in the hospital using a walker, and you may be assisted by a nurse or physical therapist. The next step is to transition to a cane and then to walking unassisted.
Q: How long does recovery take?
This depends on a few things, including your overall health before the surgery, as well as the type of procedure you have. Usually, the healthier you are, the more quickly you’ll recover. Typically, within the first two weeks, you’ll be doing most things at home with a walker or cane. You can expect to return to work in about six to eight weeks.