As people age, their knees and hips are subject to pain, stiffness, and general wear and tear. Sometimes, however, the knees and hips can become so painful that it’s difficult to perform daily activities, such as getting in and out of the car, cleaning, and even simply walking around town. Is it time for an upgrade? Here’s what patients need to know about total knee and hip replacements.
The increasingly popular solution
Especially in people with osteoarthritis, total knee or hip replacements are becoming increasingly common. In fact, projections show that by 2030, nearly 3.5 million Americans will undergo knee replacement surgery every year, and over half a million will undergo hip replacement.
While not everyone is an ideal candidate for total joint replacement, some indications that it might be time for hip or knee replacement surgery can include:
- Pain and stiffness interfering with daily activity
- Pain that lasts over 6 months without improvement
- Bone damage from osteoarthritis
- Medications or injections are not reducing pain
Get ready to set off the metal detectors
Many people are aware that after a joint replacement, the person may need to be more careful around metal detectors or going through airport security. Both hip and knee replacements are typically made up of separate components that work together to act as a natural joint would. Some of the components of hip or knee replacements use varying metals and plastics, so it’s best to talk with a doctor to fully understand what materials are being used.
Rebuilding the joint
The natural hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint and can rotate many directions. Total hip replacements typically include a stem that fits into the femur, a cup that is inserted into the pelvic bone, and a ball that fits on the stem to create a new ball-and-socket. These components are typically made of titanium, cobalt-chromium, or ceramic. Additionally, the surgeon inserts a liner into the cup to mimic new cartilage, which can be made of ceramic, cobalt-chromium, or polyethylene. All these materials have been determined to be safe and durable.
In total knee replacements, the surgeon replaces the femur, tibia, inserts a new liner as cartilage, and may also cover the kneecap, or patella. The femur is typically made from cobalt-chromium, and the tibia from either titanium, cobalt-chromium, or plastic. The liner is made from polyethylene, and, like in hip replacements, is the component of the procedure that is subject to wear and tear over time.
The best candidates for joint replacement
Knee and hip replacements are surgeries with exceptional outcomes, and replacements typically last 10-20 years. It is important to understand that effects of osteoarthritis, aging, and carrying extra weight will still subject joints to stress. The best candidates for total knee and hip replacements are committed to maintaining a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition, weight maintenance, and exercise that keeps their joints in the best shape for as long as possible.