I have received comments from the Blog and patients regarding the timing of joint replacement surgery. One of the most frequently asked questions is “How will I know when is it time to proceed with surgery?”. A combination of factors influence a patient’s decision to have joint replacement. These include pain, loss of motion, loss of function, and x-ray changes demonstrating significant arthritis. The outcome of joint replacement surgery is influenced by age, surgical technique, history of prior surgery, implant design, and diagnosis. Most people elect to try conservative or non-operative measures prior to proceeding with surgery. Once these have failed and the patient’s pain and decreased function is significant, they will elect to proceed with surgery.
In the younger individual, you must consider the fact that there are no “life-time joint replacements?” and most likely, subsequent surgery will be needed down the road. It is important that you discuss with your orthoptic surgeon the pros and cons of joint replacement surgery, the expected longevity, and what to expect if and when the implant wears out. A balance between discomfort and loss of function in the present versus the need for subsequent surgery in the future can be struck effectively by understanding the procedure, the realistic expectations, and the potential functional limitations that result from surgical treatment of an arthritic joint.