Getting old is not for the faint at heart. Those joints eventually wear out like an old door hinge that becomes creaky and loose. The hips and knees bear the brunt of this aging process. Nearly half of the population will experience the pain of degenerative joints. That translates into millions of people seeking traditional joint replacement surgery. But, is that the only option for an old, creaky joint?
Another option instead of conventional total joint replacement is minimally invasive joint replacement surgery. The push for minimally invasive surgeries hinges on the argument that a smaller incision means that there is less damage, quicker recovery, and less time in the hospital. However, as recent research is pointing out, these expectations are not being fully realized. Studies from Indiana Orthopedic Surgery Center and Stanford University both point to the downfall of minimally invasive surgery, namely a higher complication rate. Think about it. The incision site is smaller, so the vision and access is limited. This technical difficulty leads to surgical times and blood loss that can be doubled what is normally found with a conventional total joint replacement surgery. Besides, the minimally invasive surgery techniques are so new that many surgeons lack the experience to perform such a technically challenging surgery. Technical difficulties and lack of experience both add up to complications. The minimally invasive surgeries are not really opening the door to better options for replacing old, creaky joints.
Another option that deserves some mention is the Unicondylar Knee Arthroplasty. That fancy title just means that half the knee joint is replaced with an artificial part. Proponents of this surgery again claim that recovery time is faster and complication rate is reduced. However, as it turns out, any short term savings are negated by the fact that these devices wear out quickly and eventually require a revision surgery. So, eventually folks with a half-knee replaced end up with a whole replacement. Nothing is really gained with this option either.
The moral of this story is that short-cuts do not really lead to better results. For this reason, most surgeons will advise people to go as long as possible on the original parts before opting for the conventional total joint replacement. Nothing fancy, just the tried-and-true surgery that has worked for years and will give a person years of more mileage. Now, most people who live with old, creaky joints will say, "Boy, I wish I would have taken better care of the original parts". No matter how much care is involved, time eventually catches up to original door hinges and joints. Thankfully, some parts can be replaced as opposed to letting the door fall off the hinges. However, plenty of parts cannot be replaced and for that reason you need to take care of the whole "house"-you.
Published On: July 21, 2009