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Joint Replacement (Resurfacing)

Joint Replacement is the resurfacing of the worn out surfaces of a joint and cartilage is replaced. An arthritic or damaged joint is removed and replaced with an artificial joint of metal and plastic called a prosthesis. Joint replacement can relieve pain and enable individuals to live fuller, more active lives.

The goal of joint replacement is to relieve the pain in the joint caused by the damage done to the cartilage. The pain may be so severe, a person will avoid using the joint, weakening the muscles around the joint and making it even more difficult to move the joint. A physical examination, possibly some laboratory tests and x-rays will show the extent of damage to the joint. Total joint replacement will be considered if other treatment options will not relieve your pain and disability.

The materials used in a joint replacement are designed to enable the joint to move just like your normal joint. The prosthesis is generally composed of two parts: a metal piece that fits closely into a matching sturdy plastic piece. Several metals are used, including stainless steel, alloys of cobalt and chrome, and titanium. The plastic material is durable and wear resistant (polyethylene). A plastic bone cement may be used to anchor the prosthesis into the bone. Joint replacements also can be implanted without cement when the prosthesis and the bone are designed to fit and lock together directly.

In most cases, your orthopaedist will encourage you to use your "new" joint shortly after your operation. After total hip or knee replacement you will often stand and begin walking the day after surgery. Initially, you will walk with a walker, crutches or a cane.

Most patients have some temporary pain in the replaced joint because the surrounding muscles are weak from inactivity and the tissues are healing, but it will end in a few weeks or months.

Exercise is an important part of the recovery process. Your orthopaedic surgeon or the staff will discuss an exercise program for you after surgery. This varies for different joint replacements and for differing needs of each patient. The motion of your joint will generally improve after surgery. The extent of improvement will depend on how stiff your joint was before the surgery.

Most people can expect their joint replacement to last a decade or more.