When someone is considering joint replacement, many questions come to mind about what to expect from the overall process—before surgery, during the hospital stay, and afterwards. Each year, Deaconess performs more than 800 joint replacement surgeries. The majority of those are hip and knee replacements, but we also offer shoulder replacements as well. Because joint issues are so common, lots of people have probably had the same questions you do. So we’d like to take this opportunity to answer some of those common questions.
What type of patient typically has a joint replacement?
Total joint replacement is usually for patients who have severe arthritic conditions. Most patients who need joint replacement are over 55 years of age, but the operation is being performed in greater numbers on younger patients thanks to new advances in artificial joint technology.
Does every patient who has a severe arthritic condition automatically qualify for joint replacement?
Circumstances vary, but generally patients are considered for total joint replacement if:
What is the first step in the joint replacement surgery process?
- The pain and loss of mobility affect them all the time. They can’t function in their daily lives.
- Pain is not relieved by other methods, such as medication, physical therapy, using a cane, etc.
- X-rays show advanced arthritis or other joint problems
Once your doctor has determined that you should have joint replacement surgery, you’ll begin the process by participating in pre-testing and education.
Pre-testing is done at the physician office, and at the hospital, where we do an EKG, and the patient visits with the physician assistant to determine if there are any medical issues to address prior to surgery.
After pre-testing comes education. We know that patients who attend educational sessions before surgery have better outcomes after surgery, and are less anxious about the recovery process. In the education session, you will learn more about the surgery, your hospital stay, as well as what to expect after discharge.
What should I expect from the surgery and hospital stay?
The average hospital stay for a joint replacement patient is three days after surgery. So, if you have your surgery Monday morning, you will likely go home on Thursday. On the day of your surgery, you’ll check in at Deaconess Gateway Hospital two hours before surgery time, and then you’ll be prepped for surgery. The surgery itself takes between one and two hours
After surgery, you’ll be in recovery for a little while, then moved to your room on the fifth floor, tower B at Deaconess Gateway. Later that day, you’ll likely be taking your first steps with your new joint--almost everyone is up and moving the day of their surgery.
After surgery, what is the physical therapy schedule?
While hospitalized, patients go to group therapy twice a day, with other patients who also had joint replacement. This group approach works well, as people feel encouraged and motivated by being together. There’s a “we are all in this together” feeling. Most patients have a partner or coach with them during their therapy sessions. This is often a spouse or other family member or friend.
It is good to know that your time here will be well-spent, because you’ll be kept busy getting stronger and preparing to recover after your hospital stay.
Time to go home…now what?
On your final day of hospitalization, you are released after lunch and a group therapy session. Prior to this release, many arrangements will have been made with a case manager who makes sure all the plans are in place for your recovery outside the hospital. The vast majority of our patients are able to go home after surgery; a smaller number need to go to in-patient rehabilitation for a period of time.
Once a patient has been released to go home, he/she will have outpatient therapy about three days per week. This is usually arranged at a facility close to where the patient lives, even if he or she lives outside of Evansville. It varies from patient to patient, but this outpatient therapy will last for a few weeks, up to a couple of months.
Patients will see their doctor two weeks after surgery, and then again at intervals based upon your progress.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about joint replacement surgery?
Among our most common questions, there are two that would probably be the biggest misconceptions.
“I heard you can only have a joint replaced once in your life, so they wait as long as possible to do it so that you won’t outlive the joint.”
FALSE. Joint replacements generally last a couple of decades, and then they can be replaced if needed. At that point, only a small portion of the joint needs replacing (where the two bones meet), so the surgery isn’t nearly as extensive.
“I’m scared to get this surgery done because I’ll have to miss months and months of work.”
FALSE. If you have a sedentary (sitting) job, you can go back as early as a few weeks to a month after surgery. If you have a job on your feet all day, it may be longer, but almost everyone is back to work in a period of time covered by FMLA, which is 12 weeks.
If you are considering joint replacement, or know someone who is, we hope this has been a helpful Q&A session for you. If you have more questions, please contact Miranda, who coordinates patient education for the Joint Replacement Program, at (812)842-2722