The advances in joint replacement and the increased popularity of these procedures have been nothing short of remarkable. There are 719,000 total knee replacements and 332,000 hip replacements performed annually in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  and these numbers are projected to grow exponentially with a more active and aging population. The changing demographics are an important part of this joint replacement trend, but advances in medical technology, in the form of better implants, along with the evolution of surgical techniques and post-operative care also play roles. Only a few years ago, a joint replacement patient would spend weeks in the hospital after the procedure. Now, some patients are released on the same day of their surgery. Dr. Kwame Ennin, a total joint surgeon based in North Texas and one of the physicians who participates in the Texas Health Spine & Orthopedic Center referral line, has been an important part of this evolution of healthcare. He has treated hundreds of patients who were once consumed by relentless pain and helped them regain a new quality of life.

When to Consider Joint Replacement Surgery

All surgeries have risks of complications, and the joint replacement procedures are no exception. Dr. Ennin was asked to offer his medical opinion on when an individual should consult with a physician who focuses on joint conditions for possible surgery.

“The primary sign that someone might be a candidate for joint replacement is severe pain,” he said. “Other factors that are associated with the degenerative process in hips and knees are limping, stiffness, declining activity levels and an overall decrease in the quality of life.

“When you are older and knee or hip pain makes you think twice about going somewhere or doing something you enjoy, that’s when it’s reasonable to get a ‘work up’ with a joint replacement physician. This will enable you to determine whether your joints are, in fact, degenerative. If they are, you might be a candidate for joint replacement.”

Non-Surgical Treatment for Joint Pain

Since surgery should always the last treatment option, Dr. Ennin suggested several non-surgical treatments for treating joint pain and injury.

“The most effective, non-surgical treatment for joint pain involves taking anti-inflammatory medications,” he said. “These are brand name medications such as Aleve and Advil. There are also prescription drugs such as Celebrex, but these medications are potent and they have potential side effects including bleeding in the GI (gastrointestinal) tract or kidney issues. These drugs are not for every patient and require a physician’s approval.

“Injections into the joint are also means by which to treat the symptoms of degenerative knee or hip arthritis. This process puts anti-inflammatory drugs directly into the joint and has the potential for minor complications.”

Recovery Time for Joint Replacement Surgery

Once the decision to have a joint replacement procedure has been made, many patients are concerned about the length of time they will need for full recovery. This post-operative process is another area where these procedures have made tremendous gains over the past few years.

“The typical recovery time to fully heal is about a year,” Dr. Ennin noted. “However, on average, the patient’s quality of life is significantly better after about four weeks. So, they feel much better after four weeks and they continue to improve over a year.

“I fully understand that some people are frightened of surgery. The fact of the matter is that there are no more popular procedures than hip and knee replacements in the world. They are the most frequent procedures performed in the United States and, because of this, we have fine-tuned it significantly. This is not the hip or knee replacement of your father’s or mother’s generation. This is a modern and sophisticated process that is done to get people active quickly. Patients are not staying in the hospital for two weeks, as they used to do. On average, the patient stays in the hospital for less than two days.”

Technology: Allowing Joint Replacement to Become Safer and More Effective

“The primary reason joint replacements are safer is due to the materials we use. They are much more durable than those that were used a few years ago,” Dr. Ennin said. “Secondly, our ability to connect our new implants to the patient’s bone is more long lasting. And finally, when we are building these implants, we are striving to recreate human anatomy, and we are much more precise with that.

“Even as recent as ten years ago, the sizing options for implants were very limited. There were three options for everybody. Now, a patient has 16 options. We are therefore better able to tailor the hip or knee replacement to the individual, resulting in better outcomes.

“The technology has gotten even more sophisticated. We are using computer navigation to determine how we get those parts into the body and where they are to be placed. This allows us to be much more precise and accurate with our placement. We’re also using patient-specific instrumentation. This means we are using CT scans to build the parts specific to the patient. Again, this leads to better precision and outcomes.”

Joint Replacement and Health Insurance

“Because the complications from hip and knee replacement surgeries are limited, private insurance companies and federally sponsored insurance, such as Medicare, have realized that this is a very cost-effective procedure,” Dr. Ennin said. “In most cases they are covered by insurance. It may vary somewhat from provider to provider, but if someone has already met their deductible, there is a good chance that they can have their joint replacement without any out-of-pocket expenses.”

Would you like to listen to the entire interview with Dr. Ennin? Click on the podcast – Talking Spine & Orthopedics.

If you are experiencing severe pain in your knee, hip or shoulder joints, contact Texas Health Spine & Orthopedic Center for an appointment.

Disclaimer: Physicians who are members of the referral program practice independently and are not employees or agents of THSOC. Individual results vary so visit with your physician.