Joint Replacement Surgery (Arthroplasty) – Information & Risks

Joint problems particularly of the knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, ankles and fingers are very common, especially amongst the elderly. Such problems occur due to varied reasons including physical injury to a joint, diseases and infections (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, congenital dislocation of hip joint, joint misalignment and joint stiffness, which is mostly caused by damage to joint cartilage, the protective substance found at the end of bones that offers protection against friction. The final decision for Arthroplasty is usually made by a professional orthopedic surgeon after ruling out the effectiveness of any other treatment method available.

A lot of preparation goes into planning for Arthroplasty. Varied tests are performed to determine one’s suitability for the surgery. Such include urine and blood tests. One’s level of blood has to established and if need be, blood transfusion is undertaken. X-ray of the affected joint must be taken to inform on the size and design of appropriate joint implant. These procedures are necessary to minimize chances of complications during the treatment and side effects during recovery and after recovery. Orthopedics do aim at enabling a patient regain use of a treated joint as early as possible to forestall any complications. Joint replacement surgery requires one to be hospitalized and hospitalization period depends on one’s pre-surgery health status and the affected joint. While Arthroplasty of the hand can take between 4 to 7 days hospitalization period, that of knee, shoulder or hip can take longer.

It is a standard practice for a replaced joint to be subjected to various relevant light exercises. This is meant to gauge and improve on the motion of implant replacement. Different types of exercises are recommended after full recovery to strengthen the treated joint and regaining of functionality. The replacement implant can be either of metal, plastic or both. Those who undergo Arthroplasty while young are likely to undergo another round of Arthroplasty later in life. This is because new joints are designed to last for between 10 and 15 years.

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Risks & Complications in Joint Replacement Surgery(Arthroplasty)

Arthroplasty is certainly invasive. For this reason, one faces varied risks and complications during and after the treatment. Such include:

  • Medical risks – Arthroplasty causes a lot of stress, which can easily lead to medical problems including the risk of heart attack, pneumonia and stroke amongst others.
  • Treatment risks – Orthopedic surgeons are human and can err. A surgeon can mal-position a joint implant, which can cause problems later. There is certainly the risk of coming of the treatment with a shortened or unstable joint replacement. There is also the risk of adjacent bones being fractured. Damage to nearby blood vessels and tissue is also likely.
  • Risk of infections – The invasiveness of the operation increases the risk for bacterial and fungal infections. This is especially if one’s hygiene is poor and has been discharged from hospital.
  • Long-term risks/complications – One may not regain full use of a replaced joint. This is because the bond between the bone and the implant may not be intact. This can cause a lot of pain and may force one to go for another round of treatment. There is certainly the likelihood that the replacement implant will fragment. This will lead to inflammation of the joint and may further complicate the joint.

Over 90% of arthroplasty treatments are usually successful. The success of any treatment depends on both the surgeon and a patient. Patients need to implement all that they are instructed to do while recovering at home. Sticking to the instructions ensures that the occurrence of any risks and complications is greatly reduced.

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