Knee and hip surgeries can eliminate debilitating pain and help patients
resume activities they enjoy. But many people avoid these treatments because
they don’t understand what is involved.
A study last month from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics showed
that during an eight-year period (2007-2015), about 65 percent of patients
with knee pain related to osteoarthritis spent thousands of dollars on
not-recommended, ineffective treatments—such as injections of hyaluronic
acid and corticosteroids, and wearing braces and wedge insoles—before
Yet for people with knee or hip pain severe enough to keep them from doing
activities they enjoy, surgery can provide immediate and long-term relief.
We spoke to
Samuel Park, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at
Mission Hospital, and asked him to address common misconceptions about knee and hip surgeries.
Myth: Knee replacement surgery is only for athletes whose knees have given out.
Fact: “Knee surgery is for everyone with knee pain that interferes with
their lives,” says Dr. Park, who also serves as Medical Director
of Total Joint Replacements at Mission Hospital.
“Candidates for knee surgery are people who cannot walk more than
six to 12 blocks without pain, who have difficulty sleeping because of
the knee pain and difficulty doing everyday activities like going up and
down stairs or getting in and out of the car,” he says. “When
they think about doing an activity, they think about the knee pain more
than the activity.”
The pain originates from osteoarthritis — in other words, wear and
tear, he explains. In the knee, the end of the tibia bone meets the end
of the femur, with cartilage in between that acts as a cushion. For people
with osteoarthritis, this cushion has worn away, so the two bones rub
against each other, causing irritation and pain, according to American
Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
Myth: Knee surgery means the entire knee joint is replaced.
Fact: Most often only the surfaces of the knee bones that have been damaged by
arthritis are replaced in knee surgery, explains Dr. Park. “It’s
like putting a crown on a tooth — we resurface the bone, taking
out 6 to 7 millimeters, and cap the surface with metal and plastic.”
Myth: Even when knee surgery is successful, it might have to be done again
in a few years.
Fact: Most knee replacements (83 percent) last 20 years, according to Dr. Park.
Myth: The hip is a big joint, so it takes a long time to recover from hip
Fact: Patients who’ve had knee or hip replacement generally stay in the
hospital for one or two days, says Dr. Park, and they will be able to
walk without assistance of a walker after two to four weeks. “In
this surgery we take away four to five millimeters of bone, and cap it
with a metal ball with a stem that goes down into the femur for support,”
Myth: Knee and hip surgeries require patients to have general anesthesia.
Fact: Not necessarily. These joint surgeries usually require only a regional
anesthetic, says Dr. Park. “Patients are in a light sleep and when
they wake up, they’re not as nauseated as if they’d had general
Myth: Hip surgery is for older people.
Fact: Hip pain is mostly due to osteoarthritis and yes, many people develop it
as they get older, says Dr. Park. He estimates that by 2030, the number
of knee replacement surgeries will increase by 600 percent, and hip replacements
by 300 percent.
But hip pain can also result from an accident or from a disease called
avascular necrosis (AVN) in which blood supply to the bone has been interrupted.
(This article originally appeared in OC Catholic, April, 2017)
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.