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Are You a Candidate for Joint Replacement?

Posted 3/29/2016 by UHBlog

If severe pain and joint damage are limiting your daily activities and affecting your quality of life, we can help.

Are You a Candidate for Joint Replacement?

How many people do you know who have had a knee or hip replaced? It’s becoming commonplace among aging baby boomers and active seniors who want to pursue the activities they enjoy pain free. In fact, nearly 800,000 people get a knee or hip joint replaced annually.

According to joint replacement specialist Matthew Kraay, MD, the three main reasons people choose to undergo joint replacement surgery are to:

  1. Improve quality of life – “The big issue for most people is the pain, which impacts their ability to get around and/or limits their daily activities,” he says. For instance, climbing stairs, walking, taking care of yourself, golfing or exercising, and going on excursions are difficult to do.
    “The pain can be so severe that you risk losing your independence and doing the activities you enjoy,” Dr. Kraay says.
  2. Address safety issues – If the joint causes the person’s legs to give out, you risk falling and perhaps, breaking a bone or hurting yourself.
  3. Sleep better – “A number of people have such bad pain that it wakes them up at night,” Dr. Kraay says.

Not so long ago, people believed that new joints only lasted a set period of time.

“That was probably the biggest myth – that a device only lasted 10 years,” Dr. Kraay says. “That’s really not the case. For the majority of our patients they can expect their device to last for the rest of their life.”

The materials used in the joints has improved, making it likely a hip joint will last 20 to 25 years and a knee 15 to 25 years.

“What really matters is how you take care of the new joint and yourself,” he says. For instance, avoiding infections around the new joint and abusing the new joint through excessive wear and tear can lead to complications.

People also thought they had to live with pain until they became a certain age.

“Although delaying joint replacement surgery is usually recommended, there really is not an upper or lower age limit for patients in order to be considered for joint replacement,” Dr. Kraay says. “Pain, quality of life and health are the most important factors to consider when making this decision.”

Dr. Kraay has also done his fair share of joint replacements in 80- and 90-year olds.

“These patients functioned at a reasonably high level,” he says. “It’s really the health of the individual that determines if the person will benefit from the surgery physiologically.”

Among the factors to consider if you’re thinking about joint replacement surgery are your:

  • Overall medical condition and health
  • Current weight – People with a body mass index of 40 and above may not be able to have the surgery
  • Risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes

Recovery time after surgery has been shortened considerably, but this depends on your motivation, physical condition before surgery and willingness to do the necessary therapy after surgery.

“The rehabilitation is very accelerated,” Dr. Kraay says. “Right after your surgery, you’re usually up and moving. Within 48 hours, you can expect to go home.

“It’s important to engage your family or someone – a friend, community member or professional caregiver – who can help you while you recover,” he says. “They’ll need to provide external support, such as helping with meals, bathing, dressing and cleaning, until you can get around on your own.”

Matthew Kraay, MD is an adult reconstructive orthopedic surgeon, director, Joint Reconstruction and Arthritis Surgery, and director, Center for Joint Replacement and Preservation, at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Kraay or any other University Hospitals doctor online.

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