How To Decide You’re Ready For Joint Replacement Surgery

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Experiencing joint pain is hard. Not being able to walk around, or go about your daily tasks without feeling pain is difficult. But on the other hand, getting joint replacement surgery can be a nerve-wracking prospect. So, how do you know when you’re ready?

Here, Eddie El-Yussif, D.O., an orthopedic surgeon with Henry Ford Health, shares a list of non-operative treatment options to try before gearing up for joint replacement surgery.

  1. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications (NSAIDs). If pain relievers like ibuprofen don’t work, it might be time to find a permanent pain-relief solution (i.e., joint-replacement surgery). It’s important to note, though, that some people can’t take NSAIDs if they have a history of stomach ulcers or kidney disease, among other health issues. Talk to your doctor for the best recommendation for you.
  2. Physical therapy. While physical therapy will not add more cartilage to your joint—and worn-down cartilage is likely why you have pain—physical therapy often helps ease symptoms by stabilizing the joint, strengthening and stretching the muscles, and helping with balance, says Dr. El-Yussif. Getting into the routine of physical therapy before surgery will also be helpful when you have joint-replacement surgery, as it is an important part of recovery.
  3. Cortisone injections. Injections aren’t required before surgery, but they are an option, says Dr. El-Yussif. Cortisone injections help to decrease pain and inflammation. The effects can last around three months.
  4. Weight loss. “Obesity puts extra stress and pressure on the joints,” says Dr. El-Yussif. “It causes the cartilage to wear down, which worsens joint issues. If you have an elevated body mass index, we recommend losing weight before getting a joint replacement—not only to help ease the pain, but also, when you get a joint replacement, surgery will be easier and your outcome will be improved.”

Age is another factor to consider before deciding upon joint replacement surgery. “There’s no age requirement for a joint replacement, but the younger you are, the more likely it is that you’ll need a revision later in life,” says Dr. El-Yussif. “Even though the technology has improved, joint replacements are mechanical devices, and like all mechanical devices, they can eventually fail. A knee replacement can last 30 years. But if you have a knee replacement when you’re 45 years old, there’s a good chance you will need another one in the future, and revisions become more complicated to perform.”

At the end of the day, if conservative treatments aren't working and the pain and immobility are affecting your quality of life, surgery is likely your best option. “Joint replacements are mostly very successful procedures," says Dr. El-Yussif. "Today, they are performed with quicker recovery times. They’re done as outpatient (or same-day) procedures. They involve less bleeding and less pain through a multimodal pain protocol. They're really life-changing for most people.”

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To find a Henry Ford joint replacement surgeon, visit henryford.com/joints.

Eddie El-Yussif, D.O., is an orthopedic surgeon with Henry Ford Health. He is the co-medical director of orthopedic surgery at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital. He sees patients at Henry Ford Macomb Health Center – Chesterfield, Henry Ford Macomb Orthopedics – Clinton Township and Henry Ford Medical Center – Royal Oak.

Categories: MoveWell