Joint replacement is a process where a patient's damaged joint is removed and replaced with one made from synthetic materials. An artificial joint is named a prosthesis. The goal of joint replacement is to provide movement to the joint that is similar to that of a real and healthy version. It is also used to reduce pain as arthritis or other injuries can cause severe discomfort if left untreated. As the treatment is a highly stressful one with a number of potential complications it is usually only ever used as a last resort.
The two joints that are most often the subject of joint replacement surgery are the knee and hip. The practice is becoming more common as standards and technology of the surgery improves. An example of a situation where the treatment may be required is when the hip has developed osteoarthritis that is making movement difficult. In this case the entire joint may be removed and replaced. In some cases, however, only a section of the joint is involved in the surgery.
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Joint replacement surgery is a complicated and long procedure. Generally a patient will stay in hospital for several days before and after the operation. Extra care often needs to be taken when the patient is elderly. After the initial operation, there will be several weeks spent rehabilitating the joint as well as protecting it. It’s thought to be important that the joint becomes mobile relatively quickly, which is why physical therapy options become important. Physiotherapy is also essential for the patient to improve the mobility and function of the joint by helping to increase range of motion and increasing muscle strength.
There are a number of risks to joint replacement surgery. For example, as the treatment is such a major one there is the potential for it to cause a stroke or heart attack amongst other things. Aside from problems with surgery such as infection or a mistake in positioning, there is also the chance of long-term pain and weakness as well as a loss of motion.
Aside from the hip and knee there are other joints that are commonly the subject of replacement surgery. For example, the shoulder joint is sometimes replaced due to problems such as frozen shoulder. The ankle may also be the subject of joint replacement if it is badly damaged and causing the patient a large amount of pain.