DOES PAIN MEAN I NEED A REPLACEMENT?
Not necessarily, because not everyone with this kind of pain will get any benefit from a replacement operation.
An orthopaedic surgeon needs to assess you and the reason for your pain before deciding whether to operate, but signs you may need surgery include:
• Severe pain that keeps you awake or wakes you up at night.
• Pain that makes it difficult to carry out normal daily activities, such as getting dressed, taking a shower, getting up from a chair or walking up stairs.
• Realising that the pain is affecting your moods and resulting in a poor quality of life.
• Getting little or no noticeable relief from other, more conservative treatments, such as medication, physical therapy or limiting activity.
WHY WOULD A SURGEON NOT WANT TO REPLACE A PAINFUL JOINT?
Your surgeon may recommend against a replacement if the pain is intermittent and not too severe, or if it seems to be responding well to other forms of treatment, such as drugs. If your doctor is not quite sure what is causing the pain, they may also want to hold fire rather than put you through the ordeal of a major operation that could result in further complications for you.
Any pain that is felt in and around your joints may be due to reasons other than damage to the joint itself – for example, nerve damage could be responsible – and your specialist needs to make sure that a new joint is the best course of action before you go ahead with the surgery.
They may also decide it’s not a good idea if you have other health problems, including:
• Uncontrolled diabetes.
• A history of heart attacks or strokes.
• An infection elsewhere in your body, as this can spread to the area that’s surrounding the new joint, leading to further
• Extreme obesity.
CAN I HAVE A JOINT REPLACEMENT IF I’M UNDER 60?
Most recipients of this procedure are in their sixties and seventies, but surgery can be carried out on people of any age. However, as the artificial joints may only last around 15 years, people under 60 years old may need to have the surgery redone later in life, depending on how active they are.
A study carried out at Dunedin Hospital found 58-year-olds who had joint replacement surgery had a 50/50 chance of needing the joint replaced again when they were older.
Arthritis is the main reason that people end up having hip or knee joints replaced, but other causes can include:
• Trauma (for example, resulting from a fracture).
• Stress due to overuse or as the result of being overweight.
• Connective tissue disorders.
• Inflammation, often due to conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.