To the uninitiated, knee or hip replacement surgery might sound like a magical fix.
But while these operations do restore mobility and reduce pain for many people with severe arthritis, even with refinements in technique, rehabilitation, and anaesthesia, they are considered a last resort.
That’s because many people with hip or knee arthritis see significant improvements in their symptoms and quality of life with the right kind of exercise program — a treatment that doesn’t carry the risks of surgery. (If you’d like to learn more about how exercise can treat and even prevent knee and hip arthritis, you can read these Good Times health features: ‘It Pays to be Nice to Your Knees‘, and ‘Want to Prevent Arthritis? Exercise!‘)
And to achieve the best possible results, patients should be in the best possible shape prior to surgery, and willing to commit to months of post-surgical rehabilitation.
So when are you considered a good candidate for total joint replacement? And what should you know before agreeing to such an operation?
It’s also worth noting that since I wrote this piece, some hospitals have been able to start releasing suitable hip and knee replacement patients on the day of surgery, or after only a one-night stay. (You can read about that here: ‘New Hips, Shorter Trips‘. )
A big thank-you to the interviewees who so generously shared their time, stories and expertise:
- Ray Dayes.
- Dr. Hani El-Gabalawy, a professor of medicine and immunology, associate department head (internal medicine), senior clinician scientist, and Endowed Rheumatology Research Chair at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. He is also the former scientific director of the Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis (part of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.)
- Dr. Jeffrey Gollish, head of the arthroplasty program at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre’s Holland Bone and Joint Program in Toronto.
- Helen Johnson, an Ontario physiotherapist and clinical specialist in senior’s health.
- Deborah Kennedy, a physiotherapist, and manager of program development at at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre’s Holland Bone and Joint Program. Kennedy is also an assistant clinical professor in McMaster University’s school of rehabilitation in Hamilton, Ont., and a lecturer for the University of Toronto’s department of physical therapy.
- Dr. Brent Lanting, program director and assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, and an orthopaedic surgeon at London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ont.
- Christopher Smith, director of technical operations at the Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute in Calgary.
- Rev. Catherine Tovell of London, Ont.