Is total joint replacement surgery right for you?
Imagine experiencing hip or knee pain every day — for a decade — as your quality of life slowly deteriorates. It sounds like a rare occurrence, but many people who may benefit from hip or knee replacement are living this reality, according to Dr. Lawrence Lieber, an orthopedic surgeon at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill.
Dr. Lieber says it’s possible to have joint replacement surgery too soon, but many patients also wait too long: “Patients should have consistent discomfort in their hip or knee to warrant a surgical procedure. [By waiting too long,] you can start to have secondary muscle weakness, muscle atrophy and significant joint stiffness with loss of motion. I’ve seen people become so disabled that they arrive at the hospital in a wheelchair. They comprise the ability to return back to normal function.”
Pain associated with daily living — such as climbing stairs, sitting and standing and moving after waking up — may become worse over time, he says.
“The symptoms can progress so much that individuals can’t walk more than a block or two without sitting,” Dr. Lieber said. “They may also experience pain at night that prevents them from sleeping.”
Understanding total hip and knee surgery
The most common form of hip and knee degeneration is osteoarthritis. Causes can vary from traumatic events to birth defects that predisposes people to hip and knee arthritis. Other times, the cause is unknown.
Dr. Lieber says that a typical hip and knee replacement patient is a middle-aged person who oftentimes must overcome barriers to proceed with surgery. Understanding what will happen before, during and after surgery is critical.
“I find that patients who have second thoughts about the surgical intervention because of concerns over the outcome and whole process,” Dr. Lieber says. “We’re able to work through the problem. With guidance from their family members and their primary care physicians, we usually are able to progress to a point where they’re comfortable. It’s developing that trust that we learned way back in medical school.”
Hip and knee replacement procedures are usually completed in an hour to an hour and a half, Dr. Lieber says. Patients can walk the day of surgery with some assistance and typically drive in two weeks. Physical therapy usually lasts two to three months.
“After a total knee or hip replacement, patients are back to all their activities two to three months later. Many say they should have done it five to 10 years earlier,” Dr. Lieber said. “As a surgeon, that’s the most rewarding response that I can receive.”
To learn more about joint replacement services, stop by an upcoming educational class at Good Samaritan Hospital.
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