Surgical Successes: Total Joint Replacement

This blog is the start of a new series entitled Surgical Successes. This series will highlight various surgical procedures that are currently being performed at Eskenazi Health. Recently, Dr. Jason Watters sat down to discuss a total joint arthroplasty, or total joint replacement surgery. 

Total joint arthroplasty or total joint replacement surgery, is a procedure that was developed to reduce pain and increase function of a joint. It is necessary as a result of joint destruction due to various diseases, but the most common disease is degenerative arthritis. 

Joint arthroplasty replaces the damaged joint surfaces with a combination of metal and plastic components, which results in reduced pain and increased function of that joint. Currently, there are several non-surgical options which can be utilized. These non-surgical treatment plans can help patients control their symptoms of the disease. Should these non-surgical options fail then a total joint arthroplasty procedure can be considered as the best treatment plan for the patient.

There are several determining factors used to decide if a patient is a good candidate for total joint surgery. What greatly increases the odds for a patient is their overall health and fitness levels. According to Dr. Jason Watters, an orthopaedic surgeon with Eskenazi Health, patients should be relatively active and in good general health for total joint surgery. Patients who are very young or very old may not be good candidates for total joint replacements. According to Dr. Watters, most patients undergoing a total joint replacement procedure are between the ages of 50 and 70. 

Just as there are several factors that go into determining a patient for a total joint arthroplasty, there are several factors which can decide the length of the inpatient recovery. Typically inpatient recovery will last around 1-2 days. 

Once the patient is sent home, the in-home recovery time can vary. To start, the recovery timeline is dependent on the joint that is being replaced. For example, Dr. Watters notes that for a total knee arthroplasty it takes approximately three months for the majority of the surgical pain to subside and good function of the joint to return. It can take up to an additional two years for patients to continue to make improvements to their pain relief and joint function. 

Other variables that can have an effect on recovery time are whether or not the patient smokes or is overweight/obese.  Smoking and obesity can significantly slow down the healing and recovery time as it slows wound healing time. This in turn increases the chances for a serious complication to occur such as an infection and the need for additional surgery. So it is important to maintain good health through the recovery process in order to better ensure a healthy and fast recovery.

For driving, Dr. Watters’ states if it a joint on the left leg is replaced, driving can resume in a week or two post- surgery. However, if it is a right leg, the time is increased to 6-8 weeks post-surgery before a patient is allowed to drive.  Exercise can be resumed 3-4 weeks post -surgery. However, high impact activities are discouraged in order to prolong the life the new joint. So instead of running and jumping, patients should consider cycling, swimming and walking as possible alternatives for exercise. 

If you are interested in learning more about total joint replacement therapy, or if you or a loved one is interested in meeting with an orthopaedic doctor, please visit or call 317.880.3737.

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