Who's a Candidate for Knee Replacement Surgery? | UPMC

Do you suffer from arthritic conditions? If so, you may be wondering about knee and hip replacement surgeries, which are often done because of arthritic conditions. The most common forms of arthritis are rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. “Arthritis is inflammation of your joints, which are what connect your bones and allow your body to move,” says Michael J. O’Malley, MD, orthopaedic surgeon at UPMC.

Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an overactive immune system, while osteoarthritis is often caused by wear and tear. “When there is damage to the cartilage that’s within the joint, movement can become very painful,” Dr. O’Malley says.

If you have fractured or broken your hip, joint replacement might be recommended. “For patients that are older, after a fall it can be very difficult to put that bone back where it belongs and have it heal,” says Dr. O’Malley. In cases such as that, surgery is a viable option. “We can replace the broken ball with a hip replacement,” he says.

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

What Are Knee and Hip Replacement?

Hip replacement, or arthroplasty, is when a surgeon removes damaged sections of the hip joint with parts that are made of hard plastic, ceramic, or metal. The artificial joint can alleviate pain and help you to return to your normal daily activities.

Knee replacement surgery, or knee arthroplasty, is performed to relieve pain and restore joint mobility. It involves removal of damaged bone and cartilage from the shinbone, thighbone, and kneecap. The joint is replaced artificially with materials constructed of plastics, polymers, and metal alloys.

“Before turning to joint replacement surgery, doctors will often try other nonoperative treatments, such as medications, therapy, injections, and bracing,” says Dr. O’Malley. Common signs that this type of surgery may be necessary include:

  • Severe pain that affects your ability to engage in everyday activities.
  • Pain that persists and can’t be managed by medication.
  • Pain that worsens with walking.
  • Difficulty climbing stairs or rising from a seated position.
  • Unbearable stiffness of the hip or knee.
  • Advanced arthritis.

Surgery Preparation

More than 1 million Americans have these types of surgeries yearly, according to The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. If you decide to have hip or knee replacement surgery, your physician may advise you to stop taking dietary supplements and medications prior to the procedure. You’ll be told not to eat anything after midnight prior to the surgery.

Prepare meals for yourself in advance so you can start recuperating as soon as you return home, instead of worrying about cooking. You may be in too much pain when you first get home to do anything but rest, so prepare your living space beforehand and rid it of anything that might get in the way of your walker or cane. “Though you’ll be able to navigate stairs before leaving the hospital, some patients try to stay on one floor for a few days,” says Dr. O’Malley.

It’s also a good idea to pre-install safety bars in the shower and secure handrails on your stairs. “We certainly don’t want you falling after surgery,” says Dr. O’Malley.

Knee and Hip Replacement Recovery Plan

After your surgery, your doctor may prescribe medication to manage your pain. “You’ll be on a combination of anti-inflammatories, nerve medications, and a narcotic if necessary,” says Dr. O’Malley. You’ll also be asked to exercise your leg, foot, and ankle to increase blood flow and decrease your chances of developing blood clots. You may be prescribed physical therapy as well as a blood thinner for three to four weeks after surgery.

“We want to make sure that you don’t get blood clots, and patients may need injections or oral medications such as a baby aspirin twice a day,” says Dr. O’Malley. While recovering from surgery, be sure to follow proper wound care and eat a healthy diet.

Learn more about orthopaedic services at UPMC Orthopaedic Care. To schedule an appointment with one of our orthopaedic experts or learn more about our joint replacement procedures, call 1-866-987-ORTHO (6784).

Editor's Note: This video was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Orthopaedic Care

When you are dealing with bone, muscle, or joint pain, it can affect your daily life. UPMC Orthopaedic Care can help. As a national leader in advanced orthopaedic care, we diagnose and treat a full range of musculoskeletal disorders, from the acute and chronic to the common and complex. We provide access to UPMC’s vast network of support services for both surgical and nonsurgical treatments and a full continuum of care. Our multidisciplinary team of experts will work with you to develop the treatment plan that works best for you. Our care team uses the most innovative tools and techniques to provide better outcomes. We also are leaders in research and clinical trials, striving to find better ways to provide our patients care. With locations throughout our communities, you can find a provider near you.