Howard S Hirsch, MD
Over the past 25 years I have discussed hip and knee replacement with thousands of patients. Some of their questions have always surprised me. Not only that, it often concerns me how long individuals have lived with disabling hip and knee pain, avoiding or delaying beneficial surgery, because they are unaware of its availability and their own suitability for the procedure. The only remedy for this situation that I can imagine is for the medical community, in general, and joint replacement surgeons, like myself, to make a greater effort to educate patients experiencing debilitating arthritis. In an effort to achieve this, I shall review 5 myths about joint replacement that may unnecessarily prevent patients from considering the surgery:
Myth 1. “I am too old for the surgery”–
Joint replacement surgery has successfully been performed on many patients in their 90s! An individual’s age is much less important than their health. As long as there are no serious pre-existing heart, lung or immune conditions, most patients can safely consider these procedures. Close collaboration between the patient’s surgeon and primary physician is essential and makes this possible.
Myth 2. Knee replacement includes the entire bones of the knee joint–
In reality, knee replacement involves precisely recapping the patient’s own bone with the metallic devices and placing a special plastic pad between the metal pieces. Furthermore, the patient’s kneecap is not removed; sometimes a plastic pad is placed under it.
Myth 3. Joint replacements last for about 10 years-
While some devices may not last as long as expected, according to modern scientific studies currently used devices will often last longer than 20 years.
Myth 4. A patient may not kneel on a knee replacement-
Some individuals never achieve enough flexibility to do this, but many do. Some are uncomfortable kneeling on their surgical scar. For those who achieve enough flexibility, it is not dangerous for them to kneel.
Myth 5. Patients cannot play sports after joint replacement-
This is something that should be discussed between the patient and the surgeon. While many surgeons advise their joint replacement patients not to participate in sports with impact such as running and basketball, the overwhelming majority of surgeons encourage their patients to resume recreational sports commonly pursued by individuals over 50 years of age such as walking, hiking, tennis, golf, bicycling, cross-country skiing and many others.
If any of these concerns have discouraged you from considering joint replacement, make an appointment with your orthopedic surgeon and discuss them!