Joint Replacement Surgeries
Joint replacement surgeries are growing at an amazing pace, both in terms of number of people requiring them, but also the number of different types of procedures and implants now available and number of procedures performed.
When arthritis, regardless of the cause, becomes so advanced that it significantly interferes with quality of life and functionality issues, and when other, more conservative methods have failed, joint replacement surgeries have become the “surgery of last resort”.
That is not to say that these procedures are hopeless or at the “end of the line” for arthritis sufferers; quite the opposite. Joint replacement has become a literal “God-send” for those who suffer from end-stage arthritis and whose lives have been altered to such an extent that just getting around and performing even the most basic of life’s tasks has become a daunting at best. Quality of life has been enormously improved with joint replacement.
In the following pages, we’ll discuss the most common procedures performed, those being knee joint replacement , hip joint replacement and shoulder joint replacement . We’ll give an overview as to why certain implants are used and what the expected outcomes would be.
No attempt is made to endorse any single implant or manufacturer, as the decision regarding type of implant and procedure performed will be between you, the patient, and your orthopedic surgeon.
First; the “Why”:
Joint replacement surgeries are typically performed as treatment for advanced or “end-stage” arthritis. Joints are replaced when other treatment modalities are no longer effective, such as oral medication, physical therapy, various injectable materials and even joint arthroscopy. When bones are rubbing together because cartilage surfaces have been significantly eroded away, the pain can be disabling.
In addition to pain, joint replacement surgeries are frequently advised to treat angular deformities that accompany the degenerative process. Severe varus or valgus (“bow-legged” or “knock-knee” respectively) deformities can create problems with correction and restoring the limb to a more “normal” anatomic alignment. It’s better to correct these deformities before they get out of hand and surgery/correction becomes extremely difficult, for the patient and the surgeon.
Before we embark on elaborating on different joint replacement procedures, I’d like to explain just one thing: Many people mistakenly think that having a joint replaced means that their entire joint, thigh-bone (femur), shin-bone (tibia) and patella (knee cap) are surgically removed and a complete “new joint” is inserted.
Joint replacement in the knee is more like a re-surfacing of the joint surfaces, something akin to “capping a tooth”. The arthritic surfaces of the femur, tibia and patella are shaved off with the use of specialty “jigs” that allow for the bones to be shaped in a specific fashion, to correspond to the shapes of the implants. The “host” bone remains intact. The only exceptions to this rule can include severe infections, trauma and oncologic (cancer) salvage procedures.
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