Center for Arthritis and Joint Replacement
Total joint replacement
Total joint replacement is usually reserved for patients who have severe arthritic conditions. In the past, most patients who have artificial hip or knee joints were over 55 years of age, but the operation is now being performed in greater numbers on younger patients thanks to new advances in artificial joint technology.
Circumstances vary, but generally patients are considered for total joint replacement if:
- Functional limitations restrict not only work and recreation, but also the ordinary activities of daily living
- Pain is not relieved by more conservative methods of treatment such as medications, physical therapy, arthroscopy (cleaning the joint), the use of a cane, and/or restricting activities
- Stiffness in the joint is significant
- X-rays show advanced arthritis or other problems
What is total joint replacement?
Total joint replacement is a surgical procedure in which certain parts of an arthritic or damaged joint, such as a hip or knee, are removed and replaced with a plastic or metal device called a prosthesis. The prosthesis is designed to enable the artificial joint to move just like a normal, healthy joint.
Hip replacement involves replacing the femur (head of the thighbone) and the acetabulum (hip socket). Typically, the artificial ball with its stem is made of a strong metal, and the artificial socket is made of polyethylene (a durable, medical grade plastic). In total knee replacement, the artificial joint is composed of metal and polyethylene and, it is used to replace the diseased joint. The prosthesis is anchored into place with bone cement or is covered with an advanced material that allows bone tissue to grow into it.
Total joint replacements of the hip, knee and shoulder have been performed since the 1960s. Today, these procedures have been found to result in significant restoration of function and reduction of pain in 90% to 95% of patients. While the expected life of conventional joint replacements is difficult to estimate, it is not unlimited. Today’s patients can look forward to potentially benefiting from new advances that may increase the lifetime of prostheses.