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Is It Time For Joint Surgery? Here's How To Know

Ripa delayed knee arthroplasty for 3 years, and then finally did it in 2010. The long wait required longer rehabilitation: it took 9 rigorous daily exercises to straighten her knee. postoperative. Three years later, when Ripa's right knee developed osteoarthritis, she knew that she could not afford to ignore it and programmed a joint replacement right away. As a result, his reinstatement of the second procedure was faster and easier.

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Today, hip and knee replacement surgery, called arthroplasty, is underway to quickly become the most common elective surgeries in the United States. More than one million joint prostheses, of which part of a natural joint is removed and replaced with a prosthesis, are performed each year, approximately 440,000 hip replacements and more than 700,000 knee replacements

. knee or hip. It is estimated that by 2030, the number of hip replacements will almost double and that knee replacements will increase by nearly 700% as the population ages and more people will want to stay active more late in life. Almost all of these surgeries, such as Ripa's, are done to repair the damage caused by osteoarthritis.

When practiced at the "right" time, surgery has a proven track record of restoring mobility without pain. The trick, however, for doctors and their patients, is to identify this moment. (Here's what happens when joint replacement surgery goes wrong.)


An estimated 55 million Americans suffer from arthritis, a disease in which articular cartilage degenerates, usually causing pain and stiffness. Osteoarthritis, the most common form, usually affects the hips, knees, hands and feet. In its infancy, it can be treated with over-the-counter and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, muscle building exercises and steroid injections.

Doctors generally recommend joint replacement surgery as the last option for patients with osteoarthritis. other treatments are no longer effective and the pain is unbearable or mobility is severely limited. At this point, the doctor who has treated arthritis refers the patient to a surgeon for a consultation to see if surgery is recommended.

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Although the process seems simple, it's anything but. First, there are no agreed guidelines to help primary care physicians and their patients make this decision. Specialized medical organizations such as the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons have guidelines to help their members advise patients on the schedule of surgery during a consultation. But before that, there are no standards to help the medical community as a whole – internists and family physicians who treat many cases of osteoarthritis – to understand how much joint damage, pain or impairment in daily activities


HOW IT HAS BEEN MADE: A surgeon removes the patella from the hip and replaces it with an artificial socket plus a ball on a metal rod. The stem is placed inside the top of the femur, which is dug with a drill. A liner keeps the new ball gliding smoothly into the new socket. The surgeon can cut through the muscle using an anterior (forward), lateral (side), or posterior (rear) approach, making a small or large incision. (Here are 9 things that no one tells you to get a hip replacement.)

PAIN / RECOVERY: The length of hospital stay varies from 1 day in an outpatient surgery center to several days, according to the degree of osteoarthritis, age, health status, and more. Post-surgical care includes at least one week of physiotherapy, home exercise, daily walking and pain medication as needed.

Discover the incredible results you get by walking 30 minutes a day:


Nicole Dorsey, a 53-year-old writer in Orange County, California, believes she has waited too long to be operated on, even though she was only 45 years old. when she had her first hip replacement. With his family history of osteoarthritis, it was not surprising that his hips begin to hurt at a young age.

By the time she turned 43 in 2007, the pain in her right hip had gone from tolerable to distressing. She took anti-inflammatory medications five times a day to cope and opted for deep tissue massage and acupuncture. Yet the pain has become unbearable. "I could hobble but not walk normally," she says. She had to stop doing exercise and teach yoga. (If you experience inflammation and pain, you may want to consider this anti-inflammatory diet.)

PLUS: 3 Simple Moves That Fight Knee and Hip Pain

The Doctor Dorsey told him that the disease had worn out the cartilage cushioned in his hip, and the bone was rubbing on the bone. Terrified that surgery could make her mobility worse or make her less active for months, Dorsey endured until 2009, when she finally resigned to having her hip replaced. She is glad that she did it. "I was able to go back to exercise and teach yoga quickly," she says. "And 6 months after the surgery, I felt great – running, doing yoga, doing movement, work." (Open your hips and feel the stretch with these 12 yoga poses.)

Five years later, when the left hip of arthritis has become as painful as its right, it does not look like it's too bad. did not hesitate to have another replacement. Even though the recovery was longer and harder the second time, Dorsey's only regret, she waited, was waiting for her to replace her first hip. "Ignoring arthritis meant that I was damaging my own femur, chipping what was left of the bone where it connects to the joint," she says.

Many patients, like Dorsey, are willing to bear the pain because they're afraid of the surgery itself – and often pain and recovery period after. Other patients, especially the younger ones, may delay the operation because they want to minimize the chances of having to replace the joint again – most dentures last about 20 years.

PLUS: 4 Ways to Make Sure You Never Have To Get a Hip Replacement

Surgeons want more patients to realize that there are some risks of waiting. "Making replacement is more difficult when arthritis is more advanced because there is more deformity and more bone loss," says Michael Mont, chair of the orthopedic department at Cleveland Clinic. "And your function gets worse, which makes rehabilitation more difficult."

Indeed, waiting can mean that you may find yourself more limited after the surgery. "Do not tell yourself it's part of aging," says Fiona Webster, associate professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. "It's really important to have these conversations early."

But having surgery too early is also problematic. About one-third of knee replacements reviewed in one study were performed inappropriately early and people with less severe osteoarthritis did not benefit as much from surgery as those with more damaged knees. A second study involving nearly 7,500 men and women with osteoarthritis also revealed that those with relatively mild symptoms only benefited from minimal replacement surgery. The challenge for physicians and patients is to find the point of choice for surgery when the disease is advanced enough that the new joints improve dramatically, but not so far as the damage to the joints. joints and muscles will make surgery less successful. THE PROBLEM WITH PAIN

An obvious factor in the timing of surgery is the pain of the person, but it is not always a reliable indicator. On the one hand, the degree of pain does not always correspond to the degree of joint damage. An X-ray may show serious damage to someone who is slightly ill at ease or very little damage to someone who is experiencing near constant pain, says Patricia Franklin, a professor in the Department of Health. 39, Orthopedics and Physical Rehabilitation at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts. . And since the perception of pain and tolerance are individual, the annoyance of one person may be the agony of the other.

MORE: 9 Best Solutions for Knee Pain

"I have never felt pain. who lives in New York and had his hip replaced in 2016 due to a combination of osteoarthritis and hip dysplasia, congenital or developmental disharmony of the hip joint. "Walking and getting around could be embarrassing, but it has never been painful." The X-rays of Robins showed a bone-to-bone contact, and her orthopedist told her that she needed a new joint. But as she did not feel pain, she waited 4 years before returning to the surgeon.


HOW IT HAS BEEN DONE: To provide a new knee, hinge, a surgeon replaces the end of the femur with a metal shell and l & # 39; 39, end of the lower leg bone wider by a piece of grooved plastic that has a metal rod. A plastic dish can be added under the surface of the patella; the ligaments, which stabilize the knee, can also be replaced.

PAIN / RECOVERY: Post-surgical physiotherapy is required, as is daily exercise for at least 3 to 6 months. The duration of rehabilitation depends on several factors, including the severity of arthritis. The pain can be intense. icing can help, and renting an ice machine is often recommended


Robins' husband had to stop walking, biking and being active before seeing her herself. "I would think, Oh, after work, I will go get the tea that I love and go home, but then I would think, No, I do not want to walk that far, even if it does not. was only nine blocks away, "Robins says.

PLUS: 9 Things that no one ever tells you about a knee replacement

Another factor was that his knee began to bother her: "That made me think, there is no way the hip like this will not affect other things. "By the time Robins had surgery, the muscles around her hip had deteriorated, slowing her recovery, she had two sets of post-surgery physiotherapy, the second to treat back pain caused by the loss. muscle in her thighs and glutes. "I appreciate that the surgeon did not push me into the procedure," she says, "but I would have liked to know that waiting would cause a slow atrophy of my muscles. "


Considering all the uncertainties Neighborly joint damage, how can patients know when to consult and doctors know when to recommend surgery?" I ask patients to make their decisions based on their state of life and whether the risks of the procedure are lower than the potential benefits we present to them, "says William Jiranek, professor of orthopedic surgery at the Virginia Common He adds that there is now less risk than new wear or loosening of the new joint, which goes against the old board that it is better to delay the no longer possible replacement surgery to avoid repeated procedures

. in artificial joints are a reason behind the increasing frequency of this surgery in younger patients (higher body weights, which add stress to the joints, are another). Between 2000 and 2009, the total number of knee replacements increased by more than 120%: 188% for men and women aged 45 to 64 and 89% for 65 to 84. During the same period, 123% for the 45 to 64 year olds and 54% for the 65 to 84 year olds.

PLUS: 4 Best Exercises To Do If You Had A Knee Replacement

Franklin And His Colleagues At The University Of Massachusetts Medical School Is Developing A Decision Tool online to help doctors and patients decide when the time has come for replacement of the joint. The tool, which they hope will be ready by 2019, will allow women who are considering surgery to compare their symptoms with those of other people. Franklin firmly believes that the patient should be the one making the decision. "The doctor knows if there is arthritis," she says, "but the patient is the logical person to lead the moment."

Until more standardized guidelines are available, the decision remains individual. "My philosophy is that you try a lot of non-operative things first to avoid joint replacement, as long as you work well," says Mount Cleveland Clinic. And when you have exhausted the other possibilities, you can not quite manage, or you can not stand the pain, it's time to think about exchanging your natural articulation for a bionic.


Lose weight if you need it . Each book you drop eliminates 4 to 5 pounds of pressure from your knees.

Stay (or be) active. Muscular weakness aggravates joint pain. Aerobics and exercises to strengthen the muscles that support the knees or hips can help relieve pain, and stretching can help prevent stiffness.

Use NSAIDs . Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil or Generic) and naproxen (Aleve or Generic) can help relieve pain and inflammation and improve your short-term functioning. But avoid long-term use, which can lead to stomach bleeding and hypertension. Topical NSAIDs can provide less relief from gastrointestinal problems.

Try an injection of steroids. It can reduce knee pain and swelling up to 6 months, according to a recent study. An injection can also work for osteoarthritis of the hip.

Take glucosamine or chondroitin.
Studies have shown that they are no better than a placebo to reduce pain and stiffness.

Have injections of hyaluronic acid. Similar to a lubricant, these shots were not found to be effective.

Get arthroscopy of the knee. A review in the BMJ showed that this procedure, in which doctors diagnose and treat knee problems with a camera and instruments through a tiny incision, reduces pain up to 3 months and does not relieve pain in mobility.

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