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Joint Replacement Surgery: Information for Multicultural Communities

What Is Joint Replacement Surgery?

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 (pronounced 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.



What Can Happen to My Joints?

Joints can be damaged by arthritis and other diseases, injuries, or other causes. Arthritis or simply years of use may cause the joint to wear away. This can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling. Bones are alive, and they need blood to be healthy, grow, and repair themselves. Diseases and damage inside a joint can limit blood flow, causing problems.


What Is a New Joint Like?

A new joint, called a prosthesis (pronounced praas-THEE-sis), can be made of plastic, metal, or both. It may be cemented into place or not cemented, so that your bone will grow into it. Both methods may be combined to keep the new joint in place.
A cemented joint is used more often in older people who do not move around as much and in people with weak bones. The cement holds the new joint to the bone. An uncemented joint is often recommended for younger, more active people and those with good bone quality. It may take longer to heal, because it takes longer for bone to grow and attach to it.
New joints generally last at least 10 to 15 years. Therefore, younger patients may need to have the same damaged joint replaced more than once.


Do Many People Have Joints Replaced?

Joint replacement is becoming more common. More than 1 million Americans have a hip or knee replaced each year. Research has shown that even if you are older, joint replacement can help you move around and feel better.
Any surgery has risks. Risks of joint surgery will depend on your health before surgery, how severe your arthritis is, and the type of surgery done. Many hospitals and doctors have been replacing joints for several decades, and this experience results in better patient outcomes. For answers to their questions, some people talk with their doctor or someone who has had the surgery. A doctor specializing in joints will probably work with you before, during, and after surgery to make sure you heal quickly and recover successfully.


Do I Need to Have My Joint Replaced?

Only a doctor can tell if you need a joint replaced. He or she will look at your joint with an x-ray machine or another machine. The doctor may put a small, lighted tube (arthroscope) into your joint to look for damage. A small sample of your tissue could also be tested.
After looking at your joint, the doctor may say that you should consider exercise, walking aids such as braces or canes, physical therapy, or medicines and vitamin supplements. Medicines for arthritis include drugs that reduce inflammation. Depending on the type of arthritis, the doctor may prescribe corticosteroids or other drugs.


What Research Is Being Done?

Studies of the various forms of arthritis, the most common reason for joint replacement surgery, are helping doctors better understand these diseases and develop treatments to stop or slow their progression and damage to joints.
Scientists are studying replacement joints to find out which are best to improve movement and flexibility. They are also looking at new joint materials and other ways to improve surgery. For example, researchers are looking for ways to reduce the bodys inflammatory response to the artificial joint components, and are trying to learn why some types of prostheses are more successful than others.
Other scientists are also trying to find out why some people who need surgery dont choose it. They want to know what things make a difference in choosing treatment, in recovery, and in well-being.
More information on research is available from the following websites:

    NIH Clinical Research Trials and You helps people learn more about clinical trials, why they matter, and how to participate. Visitors to the website will find information about the basics of participating in a clinical trial, first-hand stories from actual clinical trial volunteers, explanations from researchers, and links to how to search for a trial or enroll in a research-matching program.
    ClinicalTrials.gov offers up-to-date information for locating federally and privately supported clinical trials for a wide range of diseases and conditions.
    NIH RePORTER is an electronic tool that allows users to search a repository of both intramural and extramural NIH-funded research projects from the past 25 years and access publications (since 1985) and patents resulting from NIH funding.
    PubMed is a free service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine that lets you search millions of journal citations and abstracts in the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, the health care system, and preclinical sciences.

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