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|Joint Replacement Surgery: What are the Deciding Factors?
People with advanced symptoms of arthritis that cannot be managed with medications or physical therapy may be candidates for total joint replacement surgery. In most cases, the surgery is considered an elective procedure meaning the decision is made by the patient based on the recommendation and advice of his or her physician.
Understanding Typical Misconceptions
Some people believe joint replacement surgery should be postponed as long as possible. Often joint pain sufferers are concerned about the longevity of an implant, not wanting to eventually undergo a second surgery. They believe if they postpone their surgery until they are older, they may not need a second surgery - their implant may last as long as they live.
However, surgeons are increasingly recommending joint replacement to younger patients. Joint replacement can offer the potential for reduction in pain and increased mobility during their prime years. Furthermore, if pre-existing medical problems become worse or more serious, this could prevent elective surgery such as total joint replacement.
On the other hand, some people mistakenly believe senior citizens -those in their 80s and 90s - are too old for the procedure. "Even if a patient is 85 years old, he or she could still have good years of life left-so why not give him or her a joint implant?" said E. Thomas Marquardt, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at M & M Orthopaedics in Illinois. Advances in medical technology make treatments like total joint replacement an option for arthritis sufferers of any age, and yet the procedure is often not considered for older patients who are inappropriately ruled out as too old, Dr. Marquardt said.
What are the Deciding Factors?
Joint replacement surgery is an elective surgery, which means with your doctor's input, you'll be the one who decides whether to have surgery. Your physician will educate you on the procedure and its potential benefits, side effects and complications. He or she will count on you to determine when the pain becomes unbearable. Many factors may influence your decision.
* Your ability to work or enjoy hobbies may be hampered.
* Sometimes your pain may persist even when the joint is at rest, making sleeping difficult.
* You have undergone non-surgical treatments such as medications and physical therapy and still are experiencing substantial pain.
* Your pain may be so severe that you avoid using the afflicted joints. This inactivity can lead to other problems, such as exercise avoidance and associated weight-gain.
* You may reach a point that your entire life seems to revolve around your pain.
The key to making the decision whether to have surgery is open communication with your doctor. Together, you'll weigh the benefits and risks of total joint replacement.
As with any medical treatment, individual results may vary. Only an orthopaedic surgeon can determine whether an orthopaedic implant is an appropriate course of treatment. There are potential risks, and recovery takes time. The performance of the new joint depends on weight, activity level, age and other factors. These need to be discussed with your doctor.
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