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What is Joint Implant Surgery?

Joint implant surgery is a procedure in which a severely arthritic or damaged joint is surgically replaced with metal, ceramic, or plastic components. Knee and hip joint replacements are commonly performed joint implant surgeries; however, the surgery can be performed on other joints such as the elbow and ankle as well. 

Joint Anatomy 

A joint is formed at the meeting of 2 or more bones. The different types of joints include the hinge joint, such as the knee or elbow joint, which allows extension and flexion along with minimal internal and external rotation; and the ball-and-socket joint, such as the hip joint, which allows greater mobility.

Indications for Joint Implant Surgery

Joint implant surgery is indicated in the following conditions:

  • Degenerative joint disease such as end-stage osteoarthritis
  • Traumatic joint injury
  • Severe joint pain and restricted mobility that does not get better with conservative treatment, physical therapy, or joint preservation surgery. 

Preparation for Joint Implant Surgery

Your doctor will assess your symptoms and perform an examination. Imaging tests such as X-ray, MRI, or CT-scanning may be ordered. Inform your doctor about the medicines you are taking prior to the procedure, and if you are allergic to any medicines or anesthesia. Arrange for someone to drive you home after the surgery.

Procedure for Joint Implant Surgery

  • Either general or regional anesthesia can be used for the surgery.
  • An incision is made on the skin over the joint.
  • The damaged cartilage and parts of the joint are removed with minimal injury to surrounding healthy tissue.
  • Cuts are made in the bone and it is prepared to receive the implant.
  • Implant components are placed in the correct position with special instruments and the joint range of motion is tested. 
  • The surgical site is then closed in layers with sutures.

Recovery after Joint Implant Surgery

Prescription pain medicines or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may be used to manage postoperative pain as recommended by your surgeon. Physical therapy is very important to maximize joint function and you will be given specific instructions and exercises to restore joint range of motion and strength. 

Risks of Joint Implant Surgery

As with any surgery, there are associated risks and complications that may occur. Those related to joint implant surgery may include:

  • Anesthetic complications
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Stiffness
  • Failure of the implant and need for revision surgery

Benefits of Joint Implant Surgery

Joint implant surgeries are among the most successful orthopedic procedures.  Most patients can regain adequate mobility and function in their joints after joint implant surgery to maintain an active lifestyle and perform routine activities of daily living with minimal or no discomfort.