5 Things to Know About Total Joint Replacement

Surgical help for debilitating hip and knee pain

Scripps patient Garry Collins stands on a golf course swinging a golf club.

Garry Collins was an avid hiker, cyclist and golfer until debilitating pain in his hip forced him to curtail his favorite activities and, eventually, give them up altogether. Then Garry, 61, had total hip replacement surgery, and is now back in action and feeling better than he could have imagined.

Not only can pain in your hip or knee joints keep you from enjoying your favorite sports, it can also interfere with the simplest everyday activities, like walking, bending, climbing stairs and even sleeping. For some people, medications, physical therapy and other treatments help relieve pain — but often, that relief is only temporary.

When that happens, it may be time to consider joint replacement.

If you’re living with debilitating hip or knee pain caused by arthritis, injury, illness or simply getting older, joint replacement surgery can permanently eliminate your pain and improve your mobility. Joint replacement surgery has come a long way in recent years, and hip and knee replacement surgery is easier, safer and more effective than ever before.

Here are five of the most common questions our patients have about total joint replacement surgery:

1.What happens during total joint replacement surgery?

Using state-of-the-art medical equipment, the surgeon replaces your damaged joint with an artificial joint (called an implant) with outstanding precision and accuracy to mirror your natural anatomy and movement. The surgery itself can take one to three hours.

2.Why is joint replacement surgery so much better than it used to be?

Both the technology used in joint replacement and the surgical techniques have greatly improved. The implants used in hip and knee replacement today are stronger, more flexible and last longer, so they can keep you moving comfortably and pain-free for up to 20 years. In many cases, minimally invasive surgical techniques can mean fewer and smaller incisions, less discomfort, a shorter hospital stay and a faster recovery.

3. How long will I be in the hospital?

You can expect to be in the hospital for two to four days after hip replacement or knee replacement surgery. You’ll start moving and walking as soon as the first day after surgery. You will begin physical therapy in the hospital, and your physical rehabilitation specialist will develop a personalized therapy plan for you to follow after you are discharged to help you regain the strength and mobility to eventually return to the activities you enjoy, easily and without pain.

4. What can I expect after joint replacement surgery?

Hip and knee replacement surgery results are usually excellent. Most or all of your pain and stiffness should go away once you’re recovered from surgery, and your ability to move freely should improve greatly. Most patients are able to resume all of their usual activities — and do them without pain. If you participate in sports, the type of activity makes a difference. You will likely be able to do low-impact activities such as swimming, cycling and golfing sooner than tennis or running. Full recovery will take several months to a year.

5. What qualifications should I look for in an orthopedic surgeon?

Where your joints are concerned, experience matters. Hospitals with a high volume of patients have been shown to have better results, so look for orthopedic surgeons who have performed many hip replacement and knee replacement surgeries. U.S. News & World Report named Scripps the best hospital for adult orthopedics in San Diego. Scripps Clinic is the official health care provider for the San Diego Padres, and Scripps-affiliated physicians serve as team orthopedic surgeons for the San Diego State University Aztecs.