According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 1 million Americans receive either a total hip or knee replacement each year. And as Americans tend to stay more active as they age, this number is expected to grow.

With such a high number of adults facing this procedure at least once in life, there are many questions a patient may have while preparing for the surgery. Tharun Karthikeyan, MD, Lexington Clinic Orthopedic Surgeon who specializes in hip and knee reconstruction, offers insight into the procedure.

What will take place during the surgery?
During a joint replacement surgery, a patient is anesthetized, either completely or just around the joint being replaced, in order to decrease pain during and after the surgery. Once a patient is anesthetized, the surgeon will replace the joint (or parts of the joint if it is only a partial replacement) with a prosthesis. While each surgery is different for each patient, depending on the severity of the injured joint, the surgery typically lasts 1-2 hours.

How long will I be in the hospital following surgery?
If the replacement has been a total joint replacement, a patient will typically stay in the hospital overnight, unless they are elderly or have other disabilities. If this is the case, they may stay a little longer to better facilitate recovery and ensure safety. Each patient is different, so the time varies between individual cases.

What should I expect following surgery?
Each patient’s recovery will be different, however, there are several aspects of a recovery plan that will remain the same across most cases:
  • Regular walks, as soon as the day of surgery, which will increase in distance over time are advised. This keeps the patient from developing complications such as pneumonia, bed sores and blood clots during recovery.
  • Expect to use an assistive device for walking, such as a walker or a cane, for at least a few weeks. This keeps patients from putting too much stress on the joint until it is ready to bear weight.
  • Physical therapy for up to twelve weeks to increase function and range of movement for the affected joint. Therapy is usually initiated in the patient’s home, the progresses to outpatient, followed by a regular home exercise regime. This allows patients to return to their normal lives more quickly.
  • Expect some pain for at least two to three months in the affected joint, which will gradually decrease as recovery continues. Most patients experience steady improvement for the first year after surgery.

Will I ever need a joint replacement again once I have had one?
Most new joints will last a patient 20 years or more. The longevity of a total joint replacement depends on a variety of different factors. Typically, younger joint replacement patients (in their 40s-50s) should plan to have their artificial joint replaced again later on in life. In some cases, a patient may need a joint revision surgery, which is a procedure to fix the artificial joint they have. This most commonly occurs when the implant has loosened, become dislocated or infected, or if the mechanical components show signs of wear.

The most important thing to remember, with any surgery, is to follow closely the recovery plan determined by a patient’s healthcare team. This allows the patient to recover the best possible range of motion of use of the replaced joint. With proper preparation and care through recovery, a patient will be back on their feet in no time following a joint replacement surgery and enjoying their life to the fullest.

If you would like to discuss joint replacements more with a physician, or would like to schedule an appointment to see if joint replacement is right for you, please call (859) 258-8561 or visit LexingtonClinic.com/sports.