Chicago Bone and Joint Frequently Asked Questions
We've gathered answers to frequently asked questions about joint replacement surgeries to help inform our patients and their families.
What is joint replacement?
A joint replacement is a surgical procedure that replaces a worn or injured joint with an artificial joint to reduce pain, increase strength and improve range of motion.
How is the joint replaced?
An incision is made over the location of the joint and the damaged bone is cleared away. The surfaces are prepped and shaped to hold the new joint. The new joint is then aligned and secured.
How long will the surgical procedure take?
The average surgery is completed in one to two hours, but the total time in the surgery area, including the preparation and time in the recovery room, will be two to three hours on average.
Will I need blood after the surgical procedure?
A small percentage of patients require a blood transfusion based on their preoperative blood count and other patient-specific factors. If it is determined prior to your procedure that you will need a blood transfusion, you may talk to you surgeon about "donating" your own blood prior to surgery ("autologous" donation). If you choose this option, the process may begin up to 40 days prior to surgery, but no longer than 42 days (shelf-life of donated blood).
How long will I be in bed and in the hospital?
Patients who are active following surgery have a faster recovery with fewer complications. You will have assistance getting out of bed the night of surgery and will complete many everyday tasks from that point forward out of bed, including eating while seated in a chair for all meals. Patients remain in the hospital for one to three days on average before discharging home or to an intermediate care setting.
Will I have pain during or after surgery?
An anesthesiologist will work closely with your surgeon during the operation. The anesthesiologist will administer medications to control your pain. You may either receive general anesthesia or spinal anesthesia. What you receive will depend on the type of surgery, your health history and what the anesthesiologist feels is best for you.
General anesthesia can be given intravenously or via a gas mask and will very quickly cause you to fall into a deep sleep. Spinal anesthesia, also known as a nerve block, is inserted into your spinal column or nearby your surgical site using a catheter and may cause numbness from the mid-chest area to your toes.
After surgery, the nursing and rehabilitation staff will will work to lessen pain by promoting blood circulation and increasing joint motion through movement. Your physician will prescribe medication for pain management if necessary, avoiding the use of narcotic medications when possible.
Will I need to exercise prior to surgery?
When possible, patients are encouraged to improve mobility and shorten anticipated recovery time through exercise prior to surgery. Your surgeon or a physical therapist may suggest certain exercises or routine's specific to your condition.
Will I need physical therapy after surgery?
Physical activity after surgery is critical to recovery. While you are in the hospital, you will be visited by the rehabilitation staff frequently to help you regain mobility and strength immediately following the procedure. Outpatient therapy will be arranged for you by the orthopedic staff based on the recommendations of your surgeon and therapist.
Will I need help once I return home?
Most patients need only a few hours of assistance per day while they regain their strength and balance, while others benefit from a home health nurse or therapist or an extended care/rehabilitation facility. In cases in which extended care may be necessary, we recommend patients visit facilities in their neighborhood prior to surgery. In these cases, arrangements can be made while you are in the hospital.
When do I see the surgeon after I leave the hospital?
You should expect to visit the surgeon within two weeks of discharged to examine your incision and assess your rehabilitation progress.Your first appointment will be scheduled prior to leaving the hospital. Additional visits will be scheduled following this initial appointment.
Will my joint feel different than before surgery?
At first you might experience pain which will progressively reduce to mild discomfort. Some patients feel numbness around the surgical incision. You may hear or feel clicking noises - this is just the artificial surfaces moving against each other, and is not something that should cause you concern. You will have a scar at the surgical site, and your care team will give you instructions on how to care for the site. Over time, the redness and swelling at the site will diminish, but there will always be some evidence of a surgical incision.
When will I be able to drive?
Your surgeon will provide instructions prior to your discharge. In general, you will have some restrictions for at least one month.
What activities will be restricted?
Activities that are high-impact such as running or jumping and lifting heavy objects should be avoided. Cycling, walking and swimming are encouraged, but speak with your physician or therapist if you have any questions. You will receive more detailed instructions prior to discharge and during therapy sessions.
When will I be able to return to work?
It is recommended to be off of work for one month. This is dependent on your occupation type (i.e. active or sedentary) and your own personal recovery. You will get more specific information as you work with your surgeon and therapists following surgery.
To make an appointment with a bone and joint specialist at Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago, call 773-907-7750.