Pros And Cons Of Joint Replacement Surgery

Health & Medical Blog

If you have joint pain, chances are you've had a meeting or a referral with an orthopedic doctor. The field of orthopedics involves the study of the bones, joints, and nerves among other things that make up the musculoskeletal system.  Orthopedic doctors specialize in the diagnoses and treatment of many conditions from ACL injuries to Scoliosis in children to joint related issues.

If you are experiencing chronic pain in your joints, you might be considering joint replacement but don't know if it is the right decision for you. After weighing the options, you can greet your doctor with more informed questions on the issue:

What is joint replacement and why might you consider the procedure?

Joint replacement is a surgical procedure in which parts of the problematic joint are replaced with a new one made of metal, plastic, or ceramic. This new joint is called a prosthesis. The most common replacements are for hips and knees but you can also replace a shoulder, wrist, or finger joint. You may consider a joint replacement procedure if any of the following is true:

  • X-rays reveal severe joint damage caused by injury or arthritis.
  • Severe main or chronic pain(lasting several months) makes everyday activities difficult, such as walking or getting up from a seated position, or simply moving the joint in question.
  • Pain has caused a diminished quality of life, limiting activities you participate in and/or affecting your mood.

Are there other options/alternatives? (stem cells, pain management, physical therapy)

A few alternatives to joint replacement include, but are not limited to, pain management with prescribed corticosteroids, low to no-impact exercise to improve flexibility, and weight loss to relieve some pressure on the joints. While these can help to push a full replacement back a few years, they won't offer as much relief as a joint replacement. There are other less-common surgical methods you might consider:

  • Arthroscopic- a procedure to removed pieces of cartilage and bone that may have broken off and be agitating the joint

  • Microfracture- a procedure where tiny holes are intentionally drilled into the bone to encourage a natural regrowth of cartilage.

  • Osteotomy- involves the cutting of the shin or thigh bone to redistribute weight on the knee in cases of chronic knee pain. This procedure is preformed simply as a measure to put off full knee replacement for a few years.

  • Stem cells- not much is known in the field of stem cells but some doctors have been able to successfully use a patient's own stem cells to regrow cartilage and treat arthritis.

What are some benefits of joint replacement?

If the joint replacement alternatives are no longer an option for you, you may consider some benefits of joint replacement:

  • Decreased pain
  • Increased mobility and quality of life
  • You will be able to walk the day after the surgery
  • New joints can last up to 15 years
  • Joint replacements are fairly common which results in higher patient success rates

What are some disadvantages of joint replacement?

It is important to keep in mind that no two people are exactly alike and circumstances such as age and health can effect your recovery. Some disadvantages of joint replacement include but are not limited to:

  • New joints last 10 to 15 years so if you are fairly young, you may be facing more than one joint replacement.
  • Joints can be recalled leading to another surgery.
  • Infection can occur around the wound or around areas of the new joint.
  • Blood clots can occur. This is an especially high risk with patients that have slow moving blood. Patients should contact their doctor right away if you are unsure about the redness, swelling or, pain after leaving the hospital.
  • Dislocation,loosening, or wear of the new joint may occur and may require an additional surgery to correct.


If you have completed rounds of pain management and mixture of physical therapy and still don't feel you have an elevated quality of life, talk to your doctor about a full joint replacement and all your concerns surrounding the issue. If you are unsure of what doctor to choose, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons keeps an online database of doctors and their associated information which can help link you with the doctor that is best for you.

Try contacting an orthopaedic doctor for more information and help.


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