Are you a candidate for joint replacement?

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If you suffer from severe hip or knee pain that doesn’t improve with nonsurgical treatment and affects quality of life, you may want to consider joint replacement surgery. Hip and knee replacements are the most commonly performed joint replacement surgeries in the United States, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Before deciding to undergo joint replacement surgery, you should consider several factors:

Get an accurate diagnosis, talk to your doctor

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It affects more than 30 million adults in the United States, and occurs in the hands, hips and knees, causing the cartilage and bones within a joint to break down. Over time, osteoarthritis can cause symptoms such as pain, stiffness and swelling.

To effectively diagnose arthritis, HonorHealth orthopedic surgeons review images from an X-ray, and do a thorough physical evaluation to determine if there’s cartilage loss and if the protective space around the joint has decreased.

"An X-ray is the most reliable and effective diagnostic tool that clearly shows patients the extent of cartilage loss, said Ted Firestone, MD, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the hip and knee at HonorHealth. "Unfortunately, if the cartilage is completely gone, there is really nothing further that can be done to regrow it to restore the smooth joint surface. Once deemed a candidate for surgery, it ultimately becomes the patient’s decision whether to move forward or not." 

Assess symptoms, quality of life

Experts say that over time, joint pain will begin to affect your ability to participate in daily activities. The pain often occurs throughout the day and night, disrupting sleep.

"People can only live with these symptoms for so long," Dr. Firestone said. "Depending on the severity of the damage, there can also be chronic swelling and even loss of motion at more advanced stages."

Some individuals with hip or knee pain may develop a limp, which Dr. Firestone says is the body’s way of compensating for a compromised joint.

Determine goals, set expectations

While most people who undergo joint replacement are primarily seeking relief from pain, many are also hoping to resume their normal activities.

"Patients are able to quickly restore function after a joint replacement procedure, but to maximize longevity, high-impact activities like running or jogging should be avoided," Dr. Firestone said. "There is no doubt that recovery is much easier than before; however, it’s important for patients to refrain from doing too much too soon."

Learn more about orthopedic care at HonorHealth.