What is a joint?
A joint or articulation in your body is the location at which two or more bones connect to enable movement and provide mechanical support. There are different types of joints, such as the ‘hinge’ joint, which can be found in the knee, and the ‘ball and socket’ joint, where the rounded end of one bone fits into a cup-shaped end of another bone, such as those of the hip and shoulder.
The cartilage that lines the ends of the bones is called articular cartilage. This cartilage can become damaged by arthritis, a fracture or other diseases or injuries, resulting in stiffness, pain and swelling. Over the longer term, the blood flow can become compromised, affecting the ability of the cartilage and bone to repair itself.
For minor cases, medication and physical therapies can ease the condition. For more severe cases where the patient experiences constant pain and joint immobility, joint replacement surgery may be the best solution.
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JOINT REPLACEMENT SURGERY
Hip, shoulder and knee replacements are the most common types of joint surgeries: if you are undergoing a hip replacement, your hip socket and the ball or head of the thigh bone is replaced surgically. Knee replacement is often undertaken to treat patients with end-stage arthritis, while shoulder joint replacement can be required as a result of severe forms of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
Damaged joints can be replaced with a prosthesis, a procedure that takes only a few hours. During the procedure, the surgeon removes the damaged cartilage and bone from the joint, replacing it with prosthetic components made of metal, plastic, or ceramic. This prothesis replicates both the shape and movement of a natural joint.
AFTER JOINT REPLACEMENT SURGERY
Following joint replacement surgery, you can expect to stay in hospital for a few days. This will vary depending on your unique case; for example, the elderly may need to stay in hospital for several weeks to aid their recovery. Post-surgery for a hip replacement, for example, walking may be somewhat compromised and crutches may be needed until the healing process is completed.