The decision to undergo an elective orthopedic surgery such as total knee replacement is different from the decision for most other types of surgery. With problems like heart disease or cancer, patients may not really have other viable options, and the timing of surgery is decided by their disease. With joint issues, patients often live with progressively worsening arthritis for years before choosing to replace their joints. We can use medicine, injections, weight loss, activity modification and bracing to help keep people active and more comfortable. It is time to replace the joint when the less invasive options no longer allow a patient to live their life as actively as they would like. I cannot make the timing decision for them so I strive to educate my patients fully about their options and help them understand the risk for each choice they could make given their circumstances. Working together to design a game plan we are all comfortable with maximizes the chance of our success.
There are many reasons for joint pain and most can be modified if not cured. While rushing to the orthopedic surgeon is probably overkill for each passing ache and pain, if you have lingering discomfort in any joint it is worth exploring the reasons. Often, relatively simple and low risk interventions can make a big difference. When those fail, we are lucky to live in a time where most patients can regain an active life, free of arthritis pain through joint replacement. The studies are clear that total joint replacement patients gain both in quality of life and improvement of overall health.