While many patients find that joint replacement eventually provides pain relief and restores some mobility, they need time to adjust to the artificial joint.
Limitations after hip surgery include:
- Usually patients with new hips are able to walk several miles a day and climb stairs, but they cannot run.
- Prosthetic hips should not be flexed beyond 90 degrees, so patients must learn new ways to perform activities requiring bending down (like tying a shoe).
Limitations after knee surgery include:
- Walking distance improves in 80% of patients after knee replacement surgery, but patients still cannot run.
- Only slightly more than half of patients report improvement in stair climbing. (Artificial knee joints generally have a range of motion of just 110 degrees.)
Minimally Invasive Arthroplasty. Surgeons are exploring a variety of new techniques for a “minimally invasive” approach to knee and hip arthroplasty. They include using a shorter incision, and new types of smaller specialized instruments. The goal is to give the patient a shorter recovery time and less postoperative pain. However, minimally invasive arthroplasty is still in its early stages. At this time, there is no consensus on which minimally invasive technique works best, or if it actually achieves any additional benefits beyond the recovery period.
Unicompartmental Knee Arthroplasty. Unicompartmental knee arthroplasty (also called unicondylar knee arthroplasty) may be a useful procedure in cases of limited knee damage. It is recommended for relatively sedentary patients who are 60 years or older and not obese. It may relieve pain and delay the need for a total knee replacement. The procedure involves a small incision and insertion of small implants. It retains important knee ligaments, which preserve more movement than a total knee replacement.
Hip Resurfacing. Hip resurfacing is a surgical alternative to total hip replacement. It involves scraping the surfaces of the hip joint and femur and placing a metal cap over the bone. The procedure preserves much of the bone, so that a standard hip replacement can be done years later if needed. It may provide more stability, a faster recovery, and greater range of motion, making it a potentially good option for young, physically active patients.
Revision Arthroplasty. A repair procedure called arthroplasty revision may be used in cases where the original transplant fails. The specific procedure depends on whether the bone defects that occurred are contained or uncontained.
Review Date: 06/16/2010
Reviewed By: Reviewed by: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.