Hip and knee replacements have been available in the UK for a more than 40 years. Hip replacements came about in the 60s and knee replacements just a decade later. Every year there are more than 150,000 hip and knee replacements and both procedures are equal as common. You can get a knee or a hip replacement from either an NHS hospital or a private hospital, depending on your preferences. However, there are half as many private hospitals that perform these procedures than NHS hospitals.
Why might someone need a joint replacement?
There are a number of reasons why someone may need a hip or a knee replacement, some of these are:
- Osteoarthritis: damage to joints over time.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: joint damage accompanied by painful swelling.
- Damage: accidents may cause breakages.
In addition to the above, someone may have a knee replacement due to:
- Haemophilia: a condition where someone's blood has difficulty clotting.
- Gout: arthritis caused by sodium urate crystals in the joints.
Types of Treatment
Exercises and physical therapy can improve these conditions, but if these are not sufficient the operation may be required. Operation is most likely if the pain in your joints is affecting your daily activities. It is possible to have a partial replacement for the knee, but for the hips the whole hip joint will normally need to be replaced. A patient may have bilateral surgery for the knees or hips, meaning that both joints will be replaced at the same time. Replacement joints can be made from metal, such as titanium, plastic or ceramic.
When you go in for a hip or knee replacement you will be given either general anaesthetic, which means that you are asleep for the entire procedure, or you'll have an epidural. an epidural is injected into the lower part of your back so it can numb your nerves and there prevent you from feeling any pain even though you are awake throughout the procedure.
As with any operation, there is a risk of complications, but in most cases these do not occur. Possible complications include:
- Stiffness of the joint can occur if the soft tissues that encompass the joint harden. This is not a painful side effect and can prevented by radiation or medication.
- As with other operations, wound infection is always a potential risk. If you do experience any symptoms of infection after your surgery such as chills, a high fever or discharge from the wound, be sure to get medical help as soon as possible otherwise the infection may spread.