Joint replacement surgery replaces a diseased or damaged joint, most frequently a hip or knee, with a prosthetic, or artificial, joint. These very common surgeries are considered a treatment of last resort for patients, typically used only after all more conservative treatments, such as medications, physical therapy and exercise, have failed to produce adequate results. So what are the health benefits of joint replacement procedures?
Joint Replacement: The Benefits For Joint Health And Mobility
Patients who are considered good candidates for joint replacement procedures generally have severe joint pain and a significant level of disability caused by a diseased or damaged joint, along with symptoms that may include joint stiffness, deformity, and swelling, limited joint mobility, limping and muscle weakness. For these people, simple, everyday activities, like walking, dressing and climbing stairs, can become difficult, painful and frustrating. Joint replacement surgery is a very effective means of eliminating joint pain, restoring joint function, correcting joint deformity and improving a patient's mobility in these cases – allowing patients to return to normal daily activities and producing significant improvements in overall quality-of-life.
Overall Health Benefits of Joint Replacement Surgery
A number of studies have shown that joint replacement can also offer important long-term health benefits. For instance, a study presented at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), involving 2,200 hip or knee osteoarthritis patients aged 55 or over, found that osteoarthritis patients who had hip or knee replacement were 40 percent less likely to have a serious cardiac event, such as heart attack or stroke, than those that did not have surgery.
In another study, presented at the 2013 AAOS annual meeting, researchers found that osteoarthritis sufferers who had hip replacement procedures had a decreased long-term risk for heart failure, depression, diabetes and death as compared to osteoarthritis sufferers who did not undergo the surgery. In both studies, authors theorized that the long-term health benefits observed can likely be attributed to some of those above-mentioned shorter-term benefits of joint replacement surgery – resolution of joint pain and improved mobility -- which increases the capability for physical activity.
While we have been, up to this point, focused on the benefits of joint replacement, it is also important to know that these procedures are major surgeries, and the experience will not be all roses. Recovery and rehabilitation after surgery can be a long, challenging process, and as with any surgery, joint replacement procedures do have some risks. Complications occur during and after surgery in a small percentage of patients, such as infection, blood clots, anesthesia reactions, nerve or blood vessel injury, and dislocation, loosening or failure of prosthetic joints. For many patients, the benefits of joint replacement surgery can outweigh the risks, but that is a decision that is best made with the help and guidance of medical professionals.