Joint replacement surgery is one of the most common procedures in the United States. It can be pricey, and the recovery can be painful, but the alternative, living with joint pain, can be debilitating. If your joints are damaged extensively, your doctor may suggest joint replacement surgery. Once that happens, you’ll have plenty of questions. Today, we’re covering some of the basics. As with any surgery, though, you’ll want to talk to your physician to get specifics about your procedure.
Once you learn that joint replacement surgery is necessary, you’ll want to learn all you can about the procedure. Reading this article is a good start, but your doctor will be able to give you more personalized details and answer many of the concerns you may have. You can also talk to your surgeon, who can go into the nitty-gritty of the process. The questions you’ll want to ask are:
- How long will I be in the hospital?
- How long the recovery time will be?
- How will my pain be managed?
- Is there anything I can do that may help along my recovery?
You’ll also want to check with your insurance to ensure the joint replacement surgery will be covered. If you’re enrolled in Original Medicare, you’re in luck. In 2018, Medicare Parts A and B will cover joint replacement surgery at inpatient health care facilities and ambulatory surgical centers. If you’re on a private health insurance plan, coverage is not guaranteed.
Beyond asking questions, you’ll want to make sure you’re physically in good shape. The better shape you’re in when you undergo a surgery, the less chance of complications and the quicker your recovery may be.
Before the surgery, you may also be asked to have a checkup with your doctor and run pre-operation diagnostic tests. These are used to plan your surgery and recovery schedule. These tests can be important to understand where risks of complications may lie. Tests aren’t always necessary, though, so don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about how important they are.
During the Surgery
Generally, joint replacement surgery takes a few hours to complete. During the procedure, the surgeon will remove the damaged cartilage and bone around the joint. Once the damage is cleaned out, a man-made replacement will be put into place. Your surgeon will either use a local anesthetic or general anesthesia where you’ll be put under.
As with any surgical procedure, there is a potential for complications. As we mentioned, by improving your fitness, you can lessen your chances of complications. The reported complications with joint replacement surgery are infection, clots, nerve damage, or a misfitting joint replacement.
After the surgery, you’ll be moved into the recovery room until you’re moved into a long-term room. Generally, this is as soon as you’re fully awake or the local aesthetic has worn off. After that, recovery begins. In the short-term, you’ll most likely spend a few days in the hospital, where you’ll work with your doctors on coming up with a recovery plan. You’ll be encouraged fairly shortly after to get moving and test your new joint out. You won’t be running marathons, but some patients are even moving the day after their surgery or earlier. Movement after your surgery can prevent further complications like blood clots.
You may also experience some pain as your body heals in the days following the procedure. Usually, you’ll be prescribed medication to help you deal with that. Recovery can take anywhere from weeks to months. Ultimately, following your doctors’ orders is the best way to speed up your recovery.
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Any surgical procedure can be scary, but by researching ahead and knowing what you’re about to go through, it can take a lot off your chest. Specifically, joint replacement surgery is a common, low-risk surgery that hundreds of thousands undergo each year. For those Americans, the surgery can be the pathway to reclaiming their mobility and moving unhindered by age or pain.