Beyond Arthritis: Hip and Knee Replacements for Women
More and more women are seeking knee and hip replacements to maintain their active lifestyle.
The Active Patient: Your Role in Recovery
If you aren't 100% invested in your own recovery, you may not be a good candidate for surgery. Joint replacement surgery is a major undertaking. Especially with knees, you can't just sit back and wait for your body to heal and become its old self again.
After surgery, you'll likely be in the hospital for three to four days, and then you'll be given a program of rehabilitation and physical therapy for at least six weeks.
"A large part of how well a patient does depends on how focused they are around rehabilitation," says Mayman. "Especially with knees, you have to work very hard on getting your range of motion back. If you don't do that, scar tissue can form in the knee and you get limited range of motion. With a hip replacement, what you really have to do is get up and walk, but with knees, it requires diligent attention to specific exercises. The harder you work in physical therapy, the more range of motion you'll get."
Newly designed knee replacements can help you with range of motion. Some artificial knees that have entered the market in the last five years are designed to allow the knee to flex more. But in order for your new knee to flex and move, you have to build strength in the soft tissues around it. Your recovery is up to you.
Patients who are willing to work toward rehabilitation can expect excellent recovery and long life for their new joints.
"With the current generation of joint replacements, 90% or greater last 20 years or longer, and 30 years out, it's about 70%," says Mayman. "The range of longevity depends on how active people are. If you're running and jumping on the new joint, it'll wear out a little sooner. It's just like putting new tires on a car. If you drive it to the grocery store, they'll last longer, but if you're drag racing, they'll wear out faster."
Find an Experienced Surgeon for Your Joint Replacement
Once you've settled on joint replacement surgery, what should you do next?
First, find a specialized surgeon. An orthopedic surgeon who specializes in joint replacement will have much better outcomes than a general orthopedic surgeon.
Studies repeatedly have found that the more of a specific operation a surgeon performs, the better the outcome. So a doctor who's done 100 knee replacements in the past year is probably a better choice than someone who's done five.
Know Your Joint Replacement Options
Second, know your options. For example, many people think it might be a better option to get a "partial" knee replacement rather than a total knee replacement. It sounds less invasive and easier, right? While that's true, partial knee replacements have their down sides.