Joint Replacement

Joint replacement surgery is removing a damaged joint and putting in a new one. A joint is where two or more bones come together, like the knee, hip, and shoulder. The surgery is usually done by a doctor called an orthopaedic (or-tho-PEE-dik) surgeon. Sometimes, the surgeon will not remove the whole joint, but will only replace or fix the damaged parts.
The doctor may suggest a joint replacement to improve how you live. Replacing a joint can relieve pain and help you move and feel better. Hips and knees are replaced most often. Other joints that can be replaced include the shoulders, fingers, ankles, and elbows.


Before major surgery is performed, a complete pre-anaesthetic work-up is required. In elderly patients this usually would include ECG, urine tests, hematology and blood tests. Cross match of blood is routine also, as a high percentage of patients receive a blood transfusion. Pre-operative planning requires accurate Xrays of the affected joint, implant design selecting and size-matching to the xray images (a process known as templating).
A few days’ hospitalization is followed by several weeks of protected function, healing and rehabilitation. This may then be followed by several months of slow improvement in strength and endurance.
Early mobilisation of the patient is thought to be the key to reducing the chances of complications such as venous thromboembolism and Pneumonia. Modern practice is to mobilize patients as soon as possible and ambulate with walking aids when tolerated. Depending on the joint involved and the pre-op status of the patient, the time of hospitalization varies from 1 day to 2 weeks, with the average being 4–7 days in most regions.
Physiotherapy is used extensively to help patients recover function after joint replacement surgery. A graded exercise programme is needed initially, as the patients’ muscles take time to heal after the surgery; exercises for range of motion of the joints and ambulation should not be strenuous. Later when the muscles have healed, the aim of exercise expands to include strengthening and recovery of function.