Improvements Enhance the Joint Replacement Experience

When a person suffers from severe, constant joint pain, joint replacement can provide them with the relief they need.

The most commonly performed procedures affect knees and hips, and we also replace shoulder, elbow and finger joints. While the concept of joint replacement is no longer new, advances in procedures and materials continually improve the patient experience.

A significant advancement at Methodist is the use of a computer-guided system during hip and knee surgery. The system helps us to get the alignment of the replacement joint down to the nth degree of accuracy.

Methodist is the only Northwest Indiana hospital to use such a system, which also has applications for ear, nose, and throat as well as neurosurgery and spine surgery. During joint replacement, computer guidance enables essentially perfect prosthesis alignment, facilitating a faster recovery and longer wear on the new joint. Using it during a knee replacement also eliminates the need to drill a hole in the femur, thus minimizing blood loss.

Over time, surgical techniques have evolved to where joint replacements are now minimally invasive surgeries. Using smaller incisions means the patient experiences less pain and blood loss, and recovery is hastened.

While the materials used in joint replacements are virtually the same as they have always been, the years have brought considerable advancements in the bearings, which are polyethylene liners between the two pieces of metal. Now the polyethylene is stronger, better contoured and machined finer to reduce wear.

In the past, we considered people in the 65-to 70-year old range as prime candidates for joint replacement surgery. Today, patients as young as 50 may be considered, though I counsel them that the new joints may last 15 to 20 years. At any age, the decision to have a joint replaced is a considerable one and should be driven by the patient’s desire to have the procedure.

Patients not only need to be emotionally ready for the surgery, they need to make sure family members and people at work know what to expect. Methodist Hospitals’ Total Joint Replacement Program delivers a complete educational experience to make the entire process go more smoothly. Prior to surgery, patients meet their therapists and nurses, as well as attend classes about the procedure and what to expect in recovery.

If you are considering joint replacement surgery, recent advances can help deliver a better overall experience than that of a few years ago. But no matter how much things have changed, you still must be fully prepared to become an active participant in your recovery.

Judson Wood, M.D., is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon with Methodist Physician Group.

Author
Dr. Judson Wood As a board-certified specialist in orthopedic surgery with the Methodist Physician Group Orthopedic and Spine Center in Merrillville, Indiana, Dr. Judson Wood, Jr., MD finds dealing with the repair of bones a natural fit. After graduating from Howard University College of Medicine in 1985, Dr. Wood completed his fellowship training in Orthopedic Trauma and is certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery. Dr. Wood has advanced training, as well, in the use of the precision equipment necessary to do minimally-invasive arthroscopy surgery.

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