What You Need to Know About Total Joint Replacement

What You Need to Know About Total Joint Replacement

Americans are swapping out joints at a record pace; with more than a million people a year receiving a total joint replacement every year. With an aging population, the number of joint replacement surgeries is expected to grow dramatically — from around 400,000 a year in the U.S. in 2000 to almost 2 million a year by 2030, according to the Centers for Disease Control. More than half will be younger than 65.

What is a total joint replacement?

A total joint replacement is a surgical procedure in which parts of an arthritic or damaged joint are removed and replaced with a metal, plastic, or ceramic device called a prosthesis. The prosthesis is designed to replicate the movement of a normal, healthy joint.

Hip and knee replacements are the most commonly performed joint replacements, but replacement surgery can be performed on other joints, including the ankle, wrist, shoulder, and elbow.

Why would someone typically need a total joint replacement?

Several conditions can cause joint pain and disability and lead patients to consider joint replacement surgery. In many cases, joint pain is caused by damage to the cartilage that lines the ends of the bones (articular cartilage)—either from arthritis, a fracture, or another condition.

If nonsurgical treatments like medications, physical therapy, and changes to your everyday activities don’t relieve your pain and disability, your doctor may recommend total joint replacement.

What is a Joint Center of Excellence?

A Joint Center of Excellence is a facility or a hospital unit that focuses primarily on orthopedics and total joint replacement. They have a focused multi-disciplinary team, including doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and occupational therapists, who are all devoted to orthopedics and total joint replacement.

How do these centers differ from other hospital units that take care of total joint replacement?

Many hospitals and facilities take care of total joint replacement patients but not all of them focus on specialized total joint replacement care. Hospitals that don’t have an orthopedic specialty unit or Joint Center often admit patients on a medical/surgical floor. That means the nurse taking care of you as a total joint patient may also be taking care of patients with pneumonia or a patient who needs their gallbladder removed — and with that kind of variety it’s difficult to deliver the benefits that accompany highly specialized care.

A great analogy I use with patients is getting your Ferrari fixed. If you have a Ferrari with an engine that needs some work — and let’s be honest, a Ferrari is not a little investment — would you take it to the mechanic down the street who fixed your lawn mower engine? Or do you take it to the Ferrari dealership’s mechanic and have him fix your broken baby? Personally I’m taking my baby to the Ferrari doctor.

Why should you ask for a Joint Center of Excellence?

The ‘Why’ is always important. The short answer is you’ll have better results. By choosing a joint center you have a better chance of going home sooner, which means you’re decreasing your risk of infection, increasing your independence, and decreasing your overall rehabilitation time. Joint Centers of Excellence usually get you home in half the time of other facilities. We also have a huge focus on safety, which means we have lower complication rates, including blood clots, patient falls, infections, and the number of patients who need to return to surgery or the hospital. Our goal is to get you back to living the healthiest life possible as quickly as possible.

You’ll also have a more intensive therapy program in the hospital. For example, at LDS Hospital, our patients are up walking within six hours after surgery, then we also have a unique total joint class, which is a group program that meets twice a day. You’ll be doing therapy with other people who are going through the same procedure and the same experience. You aren’t alone! We also offer an optional occupational therapy class. That means you’re getting up to double the therapy time and moral support, which will enhance your physical (and emotional) recovery.