May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month. Osteoporosis, or porous bone, is a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and an increased susceptibility to fractures, especially of the hip, spine and wrist, although any bone can be affected. It is a major health concern for more than 40 million Americans, particularly those aged 50 years and older.
In the United States, 10 million individuals are estimated to already have the disease and almost 34 million more are estimated to have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk. Each year, thousands of individuals suffer fractures due to the disease of osteoporosis.
In instances where fractures occur in a joint, such as the hip, a total joint replacement may be recommended. Joint replacements may also be recommended when patients have reduced mobility, stiffness and pain caused by overall wear and tear on the joints or conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. In either of these cases, an orthopedic surgeon surgically removes the damaged joint and replaces it with an artificial or prosthetic joint.
Hip replacements and knee replacements are the most common type of joint replacement, but shoulder and ankle replacements are also frequent options. Procedures and materials have been refined through the years, making recovery much easier and timelier. There are various options available for joint replacements and your surgeon will recommend the best option for your particular case.
There are many benefits to total joint replacement and the changes in a patient’s quality of life are often considerable. For those who have suffered a fracture, surgery is generally the only option for restoring mobility. For those who simply are experiencing wear and tear, it’s a matter of quality of life. Often, patients who wait for years before having the joint replacement remark that they wish they had not suffered as long as this did before taking this step.
The benefits of joint replacement surgery include: Enhanced and restored mobility; reduced pain, and in many cases, completely eliminated pain; and full performance and function for numerous years following the procedure.
With any surgical procedure, there are general risks that must be considered and discussed with your physician. Patients must be cleared for any procedure by their primary care physician, as well as the surgeon.
It’s also important to note that each individual and outcome is different. The healing process is different for everyone, but overall, the effectiveness of total joint replacement is very positive. If you are suffering from joint pain, take the time to discuss your options with your physician. It may change your life.
Donald Nenno, M.D., is an orthopaedic surgeon with an office and privileges at Niagara Regional Surgery Center in Lockport. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Nenno, call (716) 883-4201. Eastern Niagara Healthlines is a special feature by the Eastern Niagara Health System.