Total joint replacement is a surgical procedure in which parts of an arthritic or damaged joint are removed and replaced with a metal, plastic or ceramic device called a prosthesis. The prosthesis is designed to replicate the movement of a normal, healthy joint. Hip and knee replacements are the most commonly performed joint replacements, but replacement surgery can be performed on other joints, as well, including the ankle, wrist, shoulder, and elbow.
A joint is where the ends of two or more bones meet. There are different types of joints within the body. For example, the knee is considered a “hinge” joint, because of its ability to bend and straighten like a hinged door. The hip and shoulder are “ball-and-socket” joints, in which the rounded end of one bone fits into a cup-shaped area of another bone.
Several conditions can cause joint pain and disability and lead patients to consider joint replacement surgery. In many cases, joint pain is caused by damage to the cartilage that lines the ends of the bones (articular cartilage)—either from arthritis, a fracture, or another condition.
If nonsurgical treatments like medications, physical therapy, and changes to your everyday activities do not relieve your pain and disability, your doctor may recommend total joint replacement.
Total joint replacement surgery takes a few hours. For patients of Blue Ridge Orthopedics, these procedures are performed at NewLife Center for Joint Health at Oconee Memorial Hospital. For patients of Steadman Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, procedures take place at The Joint Center–Patewood Memorial Hospital.
During the surgery, the damaged cartilage and bone is removed from your joint and replaced with prosthetic components made of metal, plastic, or ceramic. The prosthesis mimics the shape and movement of a natural joint. For example, in an arthritic hip, the damaged ball (the upper end of the femur) is replaced with a metal ball attached to a metal stem that is fitted into the femur, and a plastic socket is implanted into the pelvis, replacing the damaged socket.
Your doctor will explain the potential risks and complications of total joint replacement, including those related to the surgery itself and those that can occur over time after your surgery.
Most complications can be treated successfully. Some of the more common complications of joint replacement surgery include infection, blood clots, nerve injury, and prosthesis problems like loosening or dislocation.