By James Watson, M.D.
Every day, patients arrive at my office with chronic knee or hip pain and a host of questions about methods to make their pain go away so they can walk, exercise and resume an active lifestyle. While there is a lot of valuable information online about joint pain and joint replacement, there is a lot of misinformation too. Here are five myths and realities about joint replacement that may help you discern between fact and fiction so you can make a more informed decision.
1. Myth #1:
Hip and joint replacement implants are only good for about 10 years.
FACT: This used to be true, but not today. Advances in new types of knee
and hip implants have revolutionized the longevity of their effectiveness.
Today, one can expect a new hip or knee replacement to last more than 20
years or more.
2. Myth #2:
Knee or hip replacement surgery should be the last resort to eliminate
FACT: Conservative treatments for chronic pain are always the best initial
approach to anyone who suffers from knee or hip problems. These may include
medications, physical therapy and other measures. But once the pain becomes
life-affecting and limits your mobility, it's a good idea to talk to your
doctor about your surgical options. Living with chronic pain is not healthy
to anyone and limited mobility usually results in weight gain, increased
risk of cardiovascular issues and a lesser quality of life. Sometimes the
first thing patients say to me when they come in the office after their
joint replacement surgery is, "why did I wait so long." When no
conservative treatment relives your pain, it's time to consider more
permanent measures, regardless of your age.
3. Myth #4:
Joint replacement surgery takes a long time to recover.
FACT: It used to be standard for my joint replacement patients to spend a
week in the hospital after they got a new knee or hip. Today, our patients
put weight on their new hip or knee hours after their surgery and typically
go home after 1-2 days. Recovery takes place in stages, with short term
recovery taking 4-6 weeks while full recovery (as defined as an improvement
in function and mobility and a feeling of normalcy) may take up to 6 months;
some patients recover much sooner; others may take longer. There are number
of factors that play a role in a patient's recovery, including attitude,
physical therapy participation and others.
4. Myth #5
You can't really exercise or participate in sports activities after joint
FACT: Not true! Being active is what we want after joint replacement
surgery, albeit low-impact activities such a walking, swimming and cycling.
Some patients take their activities to an extreme level such as climbing
Mount Whitney or participating in triathlons, but these are not the norm.
Talk to your doctor about what activities you can do as you recover.
5. Myth #3
Technology advances such as robots are making joint replacement surgery
FACT: Today, robots are making a difference in the outcomes for many types
of surgeries, such as prostate and some general surgery, but they have yet
to be proven to be effective to improve the outcome of joint replacement
surgery. We embrace technology as it is introduced and have played an
active role in developing new technology and the study of its effectiveness.
However, using new technology just to use technology is not justified in the
operating room unless there is substantial clinical evidence of its
long-term benefits for patients. There are many newer approaches and
techniques to improve the result of joint replacement surgery, but robots
are not among them for joint replacement.
(Dr. James Watson is a board certified orthopedic surgeon who on staff with
the Spine & Joint Institute at Redlands Community Hospital).
For information, call:
Nikyah Pfeiffer, RCH Public Relations
562-493-6023 x 226 office