When to Consider Surgery for Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease that wears away the cartilage in your joints, causing pain, stiffness, lack of motion, and a decreased quality of life. This form of arthritis typically attacks weight bearing joints such as the hips or knees affecting your ability to walk, exercise, get up, sit down, and perform simple tasks.

Doctor recommends joint replacement surgery for his osteoarthritis knee symptoms

If you are one of the 27 million Americans living with osteoarthritis, then you know just how painful and debilitating this condition can be. Research facilities, such as Achieve Clinical Research, conduct osteoarthritis clinical studies in the search for new, more effective, and less invasive treatments. However, these treatments may not be enough for everyone.

For some people, their OA pain and stiffness has gotten so severe that commonly used treatments are no longer effective. These treatments can include:

If you have been living with severe osteoarthritis pain and none of these treatments have worked for you, there is another option available, joint replacement surgery. However, it is important to keep in mind that this should be an absolute last resort when it comes to treating OA pain. Surgery can be highly invasive and very expensive.

You may be asking yourself, “When should I consider joint replacement surgery?” To better understand when joint replacement surgery is right for you, let’s take a closer look at joint replacement surgery itself.

Are Joint Replacement Surgeries Effective in Treating Osteoarthritis Pain?

A big concern about joint replacement surgery is whether or not it is actually effective. The answer to this is yes! Joint replacement surgeries have a very high success rate. The recovery time from such a procedure can be long, but most people experience long term pain relief and an improved quality of life. Many people even report being pain-free after recovering fully.

Is the surgery painful?

A major reason many people avoid getting this type of surgery is that they are afraid it will be extremely painful. However, with modern medicine our ability to control and reduce pain is much more advance. You should only expect to experience mild to moderate pain from the surgery itself. For most operations, pain medication is given well before the surgery begins.

Surgery Recovery Time

Another thing you may worry about when deciding on whether or not to get surgery is the recovery time. This is a valid concern, as recovering from surgery can interrupt your daily life and your work.

The first part of your recovery takes place in the hospital. The time you spend recovering in the hospital can depend on a few factors including:

  • Age
  • Other medical conditions
  • The condition of your OA before surgery
  • How well you progress through post surgery physical therapy

Your doctors will monitor your recovery progress to assess when you are ready to be released. Typically this will only take one to three days. As soon as you can, you should begin walking after the surgery. Walking can help the recovery process and can reduce the risk of blood clotting.

After you are released from the hospital you will still be required to undergo physical therapy to help you recover faster. Although the amount of time varies for each individual, you most likely need to use a cane for walking and not be able to drive for a couple weeks.

The cut or incision made for the surgery should take around 2 to 3 weeks to heal. The average time for the joint to feel better is around 6 weeks. Research has shown that the majority of people who undergo joint replacement surgery feel pain-free within a year of the procedure. This can help return you to an active lifestyle and improve your overall mental, emotional and physical well being.

Will I Have to Get the Joint Replaced Again?

This is a great question to ask before getting joint replacement surgery. The simple truth is that longevity of your new joint is different for everyone and can depend on several factors. However, most people report that their new joint continues to be working fine twenty years after being replaced.

A big factor in determining how long your artificial joint will last is how much wear and tear you put it through. If you are a more active individual, this tends to put more stress on the joint during physical activity which will wear it down faster. For those who are less active or do low impact activities, their replacement joints will last longer, some may even last a lifetime.

To help prevent against having to get a second joint replacement surgery for the same joint, it is very important to go in for regular checkups with your doctor. By going in for regular follow-ups after surgery, you can identify a problem before it becomes serious, when it is still very treatable. If a problem is not addressed and allowed to linger it can become much harder to fix later.

Is the Benefit Enough to Outweigh the Cost?

The cost of joint replacement surgery can be very high and may scare a lot of people away from getting the surgery, even if they need it. However, to truly understand the cost you must compare the monetary value to the number of quality years of life the surgery will allow you.

When you compare these factors, most would agree that the cost of the surgery is relatively low compared to the benefits it offers. The majority of people who have gotten this surgery, believe that it was worth the expense and would get the surgery again if needed.

Is it the Right Time to Undergo Surgery?

So again we come back to the most important question of all. When should you get joint replacement surgery for your osteoarthritis? This is not a decision to be made lightly and several factors should be considered, such as:

  • Family commitments
  • Time away from work
  • Your overall health
  • Recovery time
  • Financial cost of surgery

These are important factors that can have an impact on your decision. For most, the time is right when there osteoarthritis has progressed to a point that they can no longer, walk easily, have trouble going to work, and simple tasks, such as sitting down, become painful. In the end, you must decide when it is time for you to undergo joint replacement surgery.



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