Are Joint Replacements Permanent?
Joint replacements are designed to outlast the patients that need them. So – in short – yes, joint replacements are permanent. However, there are some instances where joint replacements may need to be corrected. While not common, failed joint replacements can cause instability, pain, and reduced range of motion. If you suspect your joint replacement may be failing, here’s what Daniel J. Lombardo, M.D., of The Orthopaedic Institute (TOI) has to say.
What is a Joint Replacement?
Joint replacements are designed to help patients who have lost joint function or patients who are experiencing significant pain that has not responded to conservative care. The goal of these procedures is to restore movement and alleviate discomfort in the affected areas. These procedures work by replacing the damaged or worn out surface of the joint to allow for improved motion with less pain.
Depending on the severity and location of the injury, your orthopaedic surgeon may recommend a total or partial joint replacement. During a partial replacement, the most damaged areas of the joint are replaced while leaving the healthy components intact. However, if joint damage is more severe, then your surgeon may recommend a total replacement, which completely exchanges the natural joint with an orthopaedic prosthesis.
Types of Joint Replacements
Joint replacements may be conducted on the hip, shoulder or knee. There are various subtypes of replacements within each of these categories that your surgeon may recommend depending on your specific diagnosis and goals.
One recent advancement in joint replacement is the invention of the robotic-assisted total knee replacement. This is a powerful tool for surgeons that enhances surgical precision and, in some instances, can result in improved patient outcomes.
Outpatient joint replacement procedures are another modern advancement practiced by Dr. Lombardo and TOI. Outpatient joint replacements allow patients to get moving faster after surgery while recovering in the comfort of their own homes. This can improve their response to physical therapy and limits their potential exposure to illnesses in the hospital.
How Long do Joint Replacements Last?
Joint replacements are mostly permanent. They are designed to last a lifetime, and in many cases, they do. Recent data shows that 93% of knee replacements last at least 15 years and 83.2% last 25 years. Another study showed that roughly 60-70% of hip replacements last 25 years. That means that in many cases, joint replacements are permanent, providing relief and improved function for the rest of the patient’s life.
However, just like with high-performance cars, although joint replacements are designed to last a lifetime, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be occasional issues or a component failure.
What Causes a Joint Replacement to Fail?
The majority of joint replacements do very well for many, many years without any issues. However, there are certain instances where revision or correction surgery may need to be considered, including:
- Loosening of your prosthesis from bone
- Fracture around your implant area
- Wear of the plastic (polyethylene) liner
- Instability (the joint does not support body weight or stay in place properly)
Loosening and infections are the most common causes of failed joint replacement. Improvements have been made in the design of implants to make them last longer, including enhancements of the plastic used in their construction. However, implants may still erode over time or wear down the surrounding bone with continued use.
Risk factors for a failed joint replacement include:
- Poorly controlled diabetes
- Poor nutrition
What to Do if You Suspect Your Joint Replacement is Failing
While rare, failed joint replacements can be severe and lead to discomfort and instability. If you experience any of these symptoms, it may be a sign that your joint replacement is failing:
- Increased pain
- Decreased function
- Feeling like you can’t trust your joint
On the contrary, some sensations after a joint replacement surgery are totally normal and are not cause for concern. If you experience these symptoms, rest assured that your joint replacement is likely functioning as intended:
- An occasional clicking sound or sensation
- Stiffness after surgery (this usually improves after several weeks)
- Pain or numbness around the surgical scar
If you ever suspect that your joint replacement is failing or just want peace of mind regarding the health of your prosthesis, you can schedule an appointment with Dr. Lombardo at TOI.
Dr. Lombardo is a board-eligible orthopaedic surgeon and one of the only surgeons in Gainesville, FL, who specializes in hip and knee replacement revisions.
Joint Replacement Revisions at TOI
When you visit Dr. Lombardo for a revision assessment, you can expect to be treated with world-class care. Every appointment begins with a physical exam and a detailed medical history to determine the health and wellbeing of you as a whole.
From there, he may need to perform special imaging and blood work to further determine the cause of your problem..
If a revision is necessary, Dr. Lombardo will speak with you directly about your choices, guiding you with education to help you choose the best treatment. In some instances, Dr. Lombardo is able to fix certain components of the original prosthetic, while in others, a complete replacement is necessary.
Schedule Your Joint Replacement Evaluation at TOI
If you are still having pain after surgery or suspect that your joint replacement is failing, schedule an appointment with Dr. Lombardo at TOI today. Request an appointment online or call (866) 633-0695 to begin your comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan.
Dr. Lombardo is a board-eligible orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in hip replacement, hip and knee revisions surgery and knee replacement surgery.
Dr. Lombardo chose his specialty because he enjoys being able to restore function to his patients by rebuilding worn or damaged joints.
What sets him apart as a physician is his dedication to caring for patients as a whole, while working with them, their families and caregivers to return to their desired levels of activity. His specialized training in surgical management of wide breath of complex and revision hip and knee replacements allows him to provide world-class care to his patients.