What to Ask – What To Expect
by Annette Pinder
Hip replacement surgery is a procedure in which diseased parts of the hip joint are removed and replaced with new, artificial parts. Hip replacement surgery helps increase mobility, improve hip joint function, and relieve pain. Knee replacement surgery helps people with severe knee damage, and requires removal of damaged bone and cartilage from the surface of the knee joint to be replaced with man-made metal and plastic. Last year 332,000 people received hip replacements and 719,000 received knee replacements in the United States.
Sridhar Rachala, M.D. of Advanced Orthopedic and Spine Center at Buffalo General Medical Center, says, “Joint replacement surgery is not a matter of life or death. It’s more about quality of life. When non-narcotic, non-steroid anti-inflammatory medication doesn’t control pain, it is time to think about the next step. I ask patients how long they’ve had pain, how bad it is, and how long they are willing to put up with it.”
In the past joint replacement surgery was only reserved only for older people, primarily because of the need for surgical revision as parts wore down. But technology and bearing surfaces have improved. Just last week Dr. Rachala operated on a 30 year-old who had problems since childhood. “Should we wait 30 years before alleviating her pain, or do what we can to help her live a better life now?”
Dr. Rachala believes a less invasive approach is always the first line of defense, particularly in younger people. For example, if walking up four flights of stairs is a problem, he suggests taking an elevator. However, the best way to prevent joint problems is to maintain your health and weight. Dr. Rachala says losing just one pound reduces knee joint stress by five pounds, and by three pounds for the hip joint.
Patients who decide to undergo surgery are advised about benefits and risks, and attend a preadmission talk to learn what will happen on the date of surgery and the days and weeks that follow. Patients walk the first day of surgery, and return home within one or two days. A nurse performs daily checks on patients, and sees them at home for physical therapy. Thereafter, patients attend outpatient therapy. Recovery time for hip therapy is six to eight weeks, and two to three months for knee surgery. Older patients or those who live alone may go to a rehab facility for a week or two after surgery.
How do you decide which orthopedist to choose? “Pick your physician based on reputation. Ask how many of these procedures he or she has performed. If it is 50 or more, problems are less likely,” said Dr. Rachala.
Meanwhile, Dr. Rachala tells people to stay in shape and exercise, and is vigilant about his own health and that of his family. Recognizing he was overweight, he lost 80 pounds, saying, “Excess weight is the single biggest reason that people’s joints wear out. But we can perform procedures and surgical revisions today that were previously not available.
Dr. Rachala is a physician at UBMD Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. He sees patients in Amherst, Orchard Park, and Buffalo. Learn more at www.ubortho.com or call 716.204.3200.