Is It Time for A Joint Replacement?

It’s been estimated that up to one million joint replacements – mostly hip and knee – are performed every year in the U.S.

That’s no surprise – a joint that needs replacement is painful and even debilitating. But even though a joint replacement is a common procedure, you should carefully consider whether you need the operation, and how it will affect you. Here, from the experts at Harvard Medical School, are some signs that it may be appropriate to have a joint replacement:

Do you have serious pain despite medications, or pain that makes it impossible to walk or bend over? Pain that doesn’t get better with rest or non-surgical treatment may also mean that it’s time for surgery, the Harvard experts say.

Has your doctor told you that you probably won’t be helped by simpler surgical procedures?

If you have osteoarthritis and believe the condition is physically and emotionally exhausting, the Harvard doctors say, you could be ready for a joint replacement.

If the medicines you’re taking have severe side effects, an operation could be a better option.

If you already have serious joint damage or advanced arthritis, a joint replacement could be the best way to go.

Finding the right doctor

According to the Harvard experts, you should look for a physician who performs joint replacements at least 100 times annually. The hospital where he or she operates, the experts say, should be a place where replacements are routinely performed.

Here are some questions the Harvard experts suggest asking a prospective surgeon:

Are you board-certified in orthopedic surgery?

Are you fellowship trained?

How often do you do joint replacements?

What kind of results would you expect for me?

How would you deal with complications?

Do you have a physical therapist that you work with?

You can also ask to talk with the surgeon’s other patients who have had the operation.

For more information, buy Knees and Hips: A troubleshooting guide to knee and hip pain by Harvard Medical School (