Total Joint Replacement FAQ

Joint Replacement Frequently Asked Questions

What is total joint replacement? 
Total joint replacement is a surgical procedure in which parts of an arthritic or damaged joint are resurfaced with a metal, plastic or ceramic device called a prosthesis. The prosthesis is designed to move like a normal, healthy joint.

Is joint replacement surgery safe?
Joint replacement is a very common medical procedure and is extremely safe. Almost 150,000 patients undergo hip replacement surgery, and almost 250,000 patients undergo knee replacement surgery each year, the majority with successful results. Specific risks of surgery will be thoroughly reviewed with your surgeon prior to surgery.

What are the major risks of joint replacement surgery?
While most joint replacement surgeries are performed without incident, there is a very minor risk (less than 1 percent) of infection and blood clotting. These risks are lessened with antibiotics and blood thinners following surgery. Other specific risks of surgery will be discussed in detail by your surgeon. 

How long do replacement joints last?
Studies show that common types of knee replacements can last more than 20 years. Significant advances in technology continue to be made with knee and hip replacements and we hope that the lifespan of the replacement joints will continue to improve.

Who is a good candidate for joint replacement?
Candidates for joint replacement surgery are people who have severe arthritis of the joint and experience pain on a daily basis that either limits or completely prevents them from engaging in everyday activities.

Which tests will I need before surgery?
Patients are usually required to obtain a medical evaluation one month prior to surgery. You will also need routine blood work and urinalysis two weeks before surgery. If you have a history of heart or respiratory problems may need further tests, such as an electrocardiogram or chest X-ray.

Should I start or stop any medications?
Tell your orthopedic surgeon about the medications you are taking. He or she will tell you which ones you should stop taking and which ones you should continue to take before surgery.

What are my options for anesthesia?
The most common types of anesthesia are general (you are put to sleep), spinal, or a regional nerve block (you are awake but your body is numb from the waist down). The anesthesia team, with your input, will determine which type will be best for you.

How long will the surgery take?
Joint replacement surgery usually takes between one and two hours, with another hour or two for recovery after leaving the operating room. The length of the surgery depends on your health and medical needs, and how complex the procedure is.

Will I be in pain after surgery?
You will feel some pain after surgery. This is a natural part of the healing process. Your doctor and nurses will work to reduce your pain, which can help you recover more quickly. Medications are often prescribed for short-term pain relief after surgery. Many types of medicines are available to help manage pain, including opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and local anesthetics. Your doctor may use a combination of these medications to improve pain relief, as well as minimize the need for opioids.

How long will I be in the hospital?
Patients usually spend one to three days in the hospital following their joint replacement surgery. Your length of stay in the hospital depends on the progress you make with physical therapy as well as your pain control following surgery.

Will I get to go home after I leave the hospital?
Most patients are able to go home following their hospital stay after joint replacement surgery. There are very few patients that will require a need to stay in the rehabilitation center or a skilled nursing center following surgery.

Will I need help around the house after my surgery?
Most patients go home after leaving the hospital. You should arrange for family or friends to drive you home from the hospital. After you go home, you may need help from family and friends with cleaning, shopping and other errands for a week or two.

How often will I need to see my surgeon?
Follow up appointments vary from surgeon to surgeon. Patients are usually seen two weeks after their surgery. The frequency of additional visits depends on your surgeon’s preference and how well you are healing.

When can I resume my normal daily activities?
Exercise is a critical component of recovery, particularly during the first few weeks after surgery. You should be able to resume most normal activities of daily living within three to six weeks after surgery. Some pain with activity, and at night, is common for several weeks after surgery.