Joint Replacement

Knee and hip pain keep many people from enjoying an active life. And it seems that these problems increase as we get older.


The two most common reasons for joint pain are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


Osteoarthritis is the breakdown of the cartilage in a joint. When the cartilage is worn or missing, the bones of the joint rub against each othe,r causing pain. Over time this rubbing causes an overgrowth of bone around the outside of the joint. The result is pain, swelling and stiffness. Often the breakdown of the cartilage was started by excessive weight (a stress on the joint) or an injury to the joint (such as a torn ligament).


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammation of the lining of the joints and the soft tissue around them. Like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis causes pain, swelling and stiffness. Children and young adults, as well as older people, can be affected by rheumatoid arthritis. RA is considered an auto-immune disease. An auto-immune disease is a disease where the body begins attacking itself in some way. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect other areas of the body, as well as the joints.


When the pain and loss of function begins to seriously affect a person’s life and ability to be active, the physician may recommend joint replacement.


In joint replacement surgery, the affected hip or knee is surgically removed. An artificial joint is then put in place. This means that one end of the artifical joint is put into the upper bone of the joint and the other end of the artificial joint is put into the lower bone of the joint.


For knee replacement, the upper part of the artificial joint is put into the thigh bone. The lower part is put into the shin bone.


For hip replacement, the upper part of the artificial joint is put into the hip socket in the pelvic bone. This upper part replaces the inner part of the socket in the pelvis. The lower part of the artificial joint is put into the upper thigh bone.


Recovery from knee replacement surgery is generally faster than recovery from hip replacement. But, unless there are other medical conditions, people find that they return to a pain-free and more active lifestyle faster than they thought they would.


All surgery carries some risk and EVERYONE should talk with the doctor about these things before surgery. Be a responsible participant in your health care! It’s your body and your life. You have a right to know as much as you want to know and an obligation to be informed.


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Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


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