How Do I Know If I Need Joint Replacement Surgery?

How Do I Know If I Need Joint Replacement Surgery?

Even with the best medical care, degenerative conditions like arthritis gradually destroy the joint. As the disease progresses and your pain increases, you will eventually reach the stage where you wonder if it’s time for joint replacement surgery.

While there are general issues to consider about having surgery, making a decision about a new joint comes down to issues that are different for each person. When you need expert guidance about joint replacement surgery, Gregory M. Stanley, MD, at Cascade Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Center, P.C., can help you work through the critical issues.

Four key factors in your decision

These are four essential issues to consider when making decisions about replacing a joint:

  1. Conservative treatments

Before considering a joint replacement, you should exhaust all possible conservative treatments. Surgery is always the last resort after standard care, such as medications, physical therapy, weight loss, and therapeutic joint injections.

When nonsurgical methods no longer ease your pain or improve mobility, or your symptoms get worse despite conservative therapy, it’s time to consider replacing the joint.

1. Joint damage

Arthritis causes ongoing, progressive joint damage. As the degeneration reaches an advanced stage, you have such extensive joint damage that replacement surgery is your only option for relieving pain and restoring joint function.

At our practice, we can take digital X-rays on site to evaluate your joint. However, the extent of your joint damage isn’t necessarily the most important consideration.

2. Pain and dysfunction

Arthritis affects all the structures in your joint, with results of cartilage degenerating, bones eroding, inflammation becoming chronic, and bone spurs developing. As these changes progress, you experience increasing stiffness, not to mention pain at the slightest movement.

You should consider replacing the joint when the pain:

When considering joint replacement surgery, the pain you feel and its impact on your quality of life is more important than the actual degeneration inside your joint.

3. Overall health

You may need a joint replacement to protect your physical health. For example, inflammatory arthritis can spread beyond the joint, causing serious problems throughout your body. 

Your physical health isn’t the only concern. If you’re close to needing a joint replacement, chances are you have spent years dealing with pain, stiffness, and their impact on your daily life. Years of chronic pain, stress, and anxiety eventually take a toll on your mental health, too.

Feeling worn down, burned out, depressed, or like you can’t face another day, should all factor into your decision about joint replacement surgery.

Age isn’t the key factor

Your age could play into your decision if you have health concerns that may prevent surgery, such as heart disease. Osteoporosis may also be a problem if the bones in your joint are too weak or brittle to support a new prosthesis.

However, beyond those issues, your age doesn’t make a difference. People of any age can get a joint replacement and look forward to their prosthetic giving them 15-20 (or more) years of pain-free movement.

Young adults who lead an active life may wear out their new joint sooner and need revision surgery. In some cases, that’s a concern and we may recommend postponing joint replacement, if possible. 

Consider the risks of not having surgery

If you’re still having a hard time making a decision, think about the risks of not having surgery. We can discuss your unique risks, but there are a couple of common problems that can arise if you postpone joint replacement surgery.

Painful joints increase your risk of falling. Additionally, painful knee and hip joints change the way you walk and move. This puts more stress on your legs and spine, leading to strain, pain, and more problems.

If you need help thinking through making a joint replacement decision, call Cascade Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Center, P.C., or book an appointment online today at one of our offices in Hood River or The Dalles, Oregon.

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