Many people suffer from some form of arthritis of the hip or knee. In fact, it has been estimated that 1 in 5 patients have some form of arthritis affecting their mobility. It is one of the most costly conditions that we as healthcare providers deal with. So if you have pain that is present on a regular basis, pain that interferes with your sleep, requires anti-inflammatory medication, and limits everyday activities, you may well be suffering from osteoarthritis that is serious enough to consider joint replacement surgery. After seeking an evaluation with an orthopedic surgeon, who will listen to your history, examine your extremities, and obtain an x-ray, discussions will ensue as to the appropriate treatment of your hip or knee condition. As osteoarthritis is a progressive disorder, it will not cease hurting as time goes on. The rate at which the condition progresses is highly variable and different from patient to patient. In general, for early and moderate arthritis symptomatic treatment in the form of weight loss, strengthening exercises, oral anti-inflammatory medications, and occasionally injectable medications into the affected joint can be very effective. With time as the arthritis progresses, the efficacy of these treatment modalities will decrease and patients will reach the conclusion that something needs to be done. There are many variables that will lead ultimately for a patient to decide on having joint replacement surgery, but the most important seem to be increasing pain, decreasing function, and a quality of life that is suffering as a result of the above. Once these become clear, the decision to proceed is made by the patient in consultation with their surgeon. The most effective treatments prior to surgery include those that are most easily made by the patient in the form of improving their overall health, decreasing their weight and improving their strength to get the most out of their compromised joint.
—William P. Barrett, MD