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Knee Replacement

What is knee replacement surgery?

Knee replacement surgery is a surgery to replace parts of your knee joint with new, artificial parts. You may need a knee replacement if you have knee damage that causes severe pain and difficulty doing daily activities, such as walking and climbing stairs. It is usually done when other treatments for knee pain haven't helped enough. The goal of a knee replacement is to relieve pain and help you move better.

People of all ages may have knee replacement surgery. But it is more common in older people. The decision whether to have surgery is based on your overall health and how much your knee bothers you.

What conditions does knee replacement surgery treat?

Knee replacement surgery treats conditions that cause the cartilage of the knee joint to wear away. These include:

  • Knee osteoarthritis. This is the most common reason for knee replacement surgery. It usually develops over time after an injury or with aging.
  • Knee damage from other types of arthritis.
  • Problems from knee joints that aren't formed correctly.
What happens during knee replacement surgery?

During the surgery, a surgeon removes damaged cartilage and some bone from the surfaces of your knee joint. Cartilage is tissue that covers your bones where they meet. Healthy cartilage is smooth and helps the bones glide over each other when you move. When cartilage becomes rough and wears away, the bones rub against each other, causing pain.

After removing the damaged knee cartilage and bone, the surgeon attaches the artificial parts to your bones. The artificial parts are made of metal and plastic. They will give your knee new, smooth surfaces.

Knee replacement surgery may replace all the damaged parts of your knee (total knee replacement) or just part of your knee (partial knee replacement). In a total knee replacement, the surgeon replaces 3 surfaces:

  • The end of the shinbone
  • The end of the thighbone
  • The back of the kneecap
What happens after knee replacement surgery?

Some people go home the same day they have surgery. Other people will stay in the hospital a few days. To help prevent blood clots, you'll most likely take blood thinners and wear special socks or coverings on your legs for a short time after surgery.

The success of your surgery depends a lot on what you do at home to help yourself recover. A physical therapist will teach you exercises to make your knee stronger and help it bend. It is important to do these exercises regularly. You may need to use a cane or walker for several weeks after the surgery. It will probably also be several weeks before you can drive. Your doctor will tell you when you can start driving again.

Most people who follow their recovery instructions can get back to nearly all of their normal daily activities within 3 to 6 weeks after surgery.

What is life like after a knee replacement?

After recovering from surgery, most people can move better with less pain than before surgery. But having an artificial knee is not the same as having a normal, healthy knee.

You need to protect your new knee by:

  • Staying at a healthy weight.
  • Getting regular physical activity.
  • Not doing any high-impact activities, such as jogging, running, and jumping. Instead, you can try low-impact activities that are good for your knee, such as walking, biking, and swimming
What are the risks of knee replacement surgery?

The chance of having problems after knee replacement surgery is low. But there are risks after any surgery. Possible problems after knee replacement surgery include:

  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Nerve damage
  • Scarring that limits how far you can bend your knee

Your age, general health, and how active you are can all affect your risk of having a problem after knee replacement surgery.

How long does a knee replacement last?

A knee replacement doesn't last forever. After 15 to 20 years, the artificial knee parts may become loose or worn. If that happens, you may need another surgery on the same knee.

If you're thinking about having knee replacement surgery, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits. Together you can decide if a knee replacement is right for you.

Hip Replacement

Hip replacement is surgery for people with severe hip damage. The most common cause of damage is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis causes pain, swelling, and reduced motion in your joints. It can interfere with your daily activities. If other treatments such as physical therapy, pain medicines, and exercise haven't helped, hip replacement surgery might be an option for you.

During a hip replacement operation, the surgeon removes damaged cartilage and bone from your hip joint and replaces them with new, man-made parts.

A hip replacement can:

  • Relieve pain
  • Help your hip joint work better
  • Improve walking and other movements

The most common problem after surgery is hip dislocation. Because a man-made hip is smaller than the original joint, the ball can come out of its socket. The surgery can also cause blood clots and infections. With a hip replacement, you might need to avoid certain activities, such as jogging and high-impact sports.

NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Osteoarthritis

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, sometimes called OA, is a type of arthritis that only affects the joints, usually in the hands, knees, hips, neck, and lower back. It's the most common type of arthritis.

In a healthy joint, the ends of the bones are covered with a smooth, slippery tissue called cartilage. The cartilage pads the bones and helps them glide easily when you move the joint. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage breaks down and becomes rough. Sometimes, all the cartilage wears away and the bones rub together. Bumps of extra bone called bone spurs may grow in the joint area.

There is no cure for osteoarthritis. It usually gets worse slowly. But there's a lot you can do to manage the symptoms.

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis affects people in different ways, and not everyone has pain. The most common symptoms are:

  • Pain when you move, which often gets better with rest
  • Stiffness, especially for the first 30 minutes after you get up from resting
  • Swollen joints, especially after using the joint a lot
  • Less movement in the joint than normal
  • A joint that feels loose or unstable
What causes osteoarthritis?

Researchers aren't sure what causes osteoarthritis. They think that it could be caused by a combination of factors in the body and the environment. Your chance of developing osteoarthritis increases with age. They also know that some people are more likely to develop it than others.

Who is more likely to develop osteoarthritis?

Things that make you more likely to develop osteoarthritis include:

  • Aging. Osteoarthritis can happen at any age, but the chance of getting it increases in middle-aged adults and older. After age 50, it is more common in women than in men.
  • Being overweight. Extra weight puts more stress on your joints.
  • Having a past injury or surgery on a joint. This is often the cause of osteoarthritis in younger adults.
  • Doing a lot of activities that overuse the joint. This includes sports with a lot of jumping, twisting, running, or throwing.
  • Having a joint that doesn't line up correctly.
  • A family history of osteoarthritis. Some people inherit genetic changes that increase their chance of developing osteoarthritis.
How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?

There is no specific test for osteoarthritis. To find out if you have osteoarthritis, your provider:

  • Will ask about your symptoms and medical history
  • Will do a physical exam
  • May use x-rays or other imaging tests to look at your joints
  • May order lab tests to make sure that a different problem isn't causing your symptoms
What are the treatments for osteoarthritis?

The goal of treating osteoarthritis is to ease your pain, help you move better, and stop it from getting worse.

Treatment usually begins with:

  • Exercises to improve strength, flexibility and balance
  • Weight loss, if needed, to improve pain, especially in your hips or knees
  • Braces or shoe inserts (orthotics) that a health care provider fits for you

You can buy some pain relievers and arthritis creams without a prescription. They can be helpful, but it's best to talk to your provider about using them. If they don't help enough, your provider may prescribe injections (shots) into the joint or prescription pain relievers.

Complementary therapies may help some people. Massage can increase blood flow and bring warmth to the area. Some research shows that acupuncture may help relieve osteoarthritis pain. Simple things like heat and ice can help, too.

If none of these treatments help enough, surgery may be an option. You and your provider can decide if it's right for you.

NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Pulmonary Embolism

What is a pulmonary embolism (PE)?

A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a sudden blockage in a lung artery. It usually happens when a blood clot breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs. PE is a serious condition that can cause:

  • Permanent damage to the lungs
  • Low oxygen levels in your blood
  • Damage to other organs in your body from not getting enough oxygen

PE can be life-threatening, especially if a clot is large, or if there are many clots.

What causes a pulmonary embolism (PE)?

The cause is usually a blood clot that breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs. The clot is usually a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a clot in the leg. In rare cases, material such as air bubbles, clumps of fat, or parts of a tumor can block the lung artery and cause PE.

Who is more likely to develop a pulmonary embolism (PE)?

Anyone can get a pulmonary embolism (PE), but certain things can raise your risk of PE:

  • Having surgery, especially joint replacement surgery.
  • Certain medical conditions, including
    • Cancers
    • Heart diseases
    • Lung diseases
    • A broken hip or leg bone or other trauma
  • Hormone-based medicines, such as birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth. The risk is highest for about six weeks after childbirth.
  • Not moving for long periods, such as being on bed rest, having a cast, or taking a long plane flight.
  • Age. Your risk increases as you get older, especially after age 40.
  • Family history and genetics. Certain genetic changes that can increase your risk of blood clots and PE.
  • Obesity.
What are the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism (PE)?

Symptoms of PE include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Chest pain or discomfort, which usually gets worse when you cough or take a deep breath
  • Increased heart rate
  • Coughing up blood
  • Very low blood pressure, lightheadedness, or fainting

Sometimes people with PE don't have any symptoms until they have serious complications, such as pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the arteries to your lungs).

How is a pulmonary embolism (PE) diagnosed?

It can be difficult to diagnose PE. To find out if you have a PE, your health care provider will:

  • Take your medical history, including asking about your symptoms and risk factors for PE
  • Do a physical exam
  • Likely order some tests, including various imaging and blood tests
What are the treatments for a pulmonary embolism (PE)?

If you have PE, you need medical treatment right away. The goal of treatment is to break up clots and help keep other clots from forming. Treatment options include medicines and procedures.

Medicines:

  • Anticoagulants, or blood thinners, keep blood clots from getting larger and stop new clots from forming. You might get them as an injection, a pill, or through an I.V. (intravenous). They can cause bleeding, especially if you are taking other medicines that also thin your blood, such as aspirin.
  • Thrombolytics are medicines to dissolve blood clots. You may get them if you have large clots that cause severe symptoms or other serious complications. Thrombolytics can cause sudden bleeding, so they are used if your PE is serious and may be life-threatening.

Procedures:

  • Catheter-assisted thrombus removal uses a flexible tube to reach a blood clot in your lung. Your health care provider can insert a tool in the tube to break up the clot or to deliver medicine through the tube. Usually you will get medicine to put you to sleep for this procedure.
  • A vena cava filter may be used in some people who cannot take blood thinners. Your health care provider inserts a filter inside a large vein called the vena cava. The filter catches blood clots before they travel to the lungs, which prevents pulmonary embolism. But the filter does not stop new blood clots from forming.
Can pulmonary embolism (PE) be prevented?

Preventing new blood clots can prevent PE. Prevention may include:

  • Continuing to take blood thinners. It's also important to get regular checkups with your provider, to make sure that the dosage of your medicines is working to prevent blood clots but not causing bleeding.
  • Heart-healthy lifestyle changes, such as heart-healthy eating, exercise, and, if you smoke, quitting smoking.
  • Using compression stockings to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
  • Moving your legs when sitting for long periods of time (such as on long trips).
  • Moving around as soon as possible after surgery or being confined to a bed.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Rotator Cuff Injuries

What is a rotator cuff?

Your rotator cuff is part of your shoulder joint. It's a group of muscles and tendons that holds the top part of your upper arm bone firmly in your shoulder socket. The rotator cuff keeps your shoulder stable when you move your arm in any direction.

What are rotator cuff injuries?

Rotator cuff injuries are common. Most of them are wear-and-tear injuries from doing the same arm movements over and over - especially reaching over your head. With time, the tissues in the rotator cuff break down, leading to these injuries:

  • Tendinitis. The tendons in the rotator cuff connect your muscles to your shoulder bones. In tendinitis, the tendons become irritated and swollen from being pinched during shoulder movements.
  • Bursitis. The bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that pads the space between the rotator cuff and the bones of your shoulder. Bursitis happens when the muscle and bone rub the bursa too much. It swells with extra fluid, which causes pain
  • Rotator cuff tears. Tears in a rotator cuff tendon can happen over time or suddenly from an injury, such as falling on an outstretched arm or lifting something heavy. A tear may go part way through a tendon (partial tear) or all the way through (full tear).
Who is more likely to develop a rotator cuff injury?

Anyone can develop a rotator cuff injury. But certain people are more likely to have one:

  • People over age 40. Most rotator cuff injuries are from the wear and tear of aging. By age 80, most adults have tears.
  • Athletes. Playing sports with repeated shoulder movements increases the risk of a rotator cuff injury, for example, tennis, swimming, and baseball - especially pitching.
  • People in jobs that require a lot of reaching overhead or heavy lifting. Carpenters, construction workers, and painters are examples of workers who may be more likely to have rotator cuff problems.
What are the symptoms of rotator cuff injuries?

Rotator cuff injuries don't always cause pain. But when they do, the pain is often in the top part of your arm or shoulder. You may feel more pain when you:

  • Lie down, especially on the injured shoulder
  • Lift your arm or lower it to the front or side
  • Reach behind your back

Other symptoms from a torn rotator cuff may include:

  • Loss of strength in the arm
  • Clicking or popping sounds when you move your arm
How are rotator cuff injuries diagnosed?

To find out if you have a rotator cuff injury, your health care provider:

  • Will examine your shoulder. This includes checking the range of motion and where the pain is.
  • Will test your arm and shoulder strength.
  • May order imaging tests, such as x-rays, an ultrasound, or an MRI scan.
What are the treatments for rotator cuff injuries?

The best treatment for you depends on your age, how much your injury bothers you, and whether your injury was sudden or happened from wear and tear.

Treatments for rotator cuff injuries often include:

  • Rest
  • Putting ice or a cold pack on the sore area
  • Pain relievers to lessen pain and swelling, such as ibuprofen or aspirin
  • Physical therapy exercises to strengthen your shoulder and improve movement
  • A corticosteroid shot into your shoulder joint if other treatments don't help with the pain

Treatments for rotator cuff tendinitis and bursitis may also include ultrasound therapy. Surgery may be an option if your shoulder doesn't feel better in 6 to 12 months.

Treatments for a torn rotator cuff may also include heat to the sore area or electrical stimulation of the nerves and muscles (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, TENS).

You provider may suggest surgery if your tear is large or is from a recent injury, or symptoms last for 6 to 12 months.

When should I see a health care provider for shoulder pain?

If certain activities bother your shoulder, it's best to stop doing them and check with your provider. That's because early treatment can prevent mild rotator cuff injuries from becoming more serious later on. If you your arm feels weak right after a sudden injury to your shoulder, see your provider as soon as possible.

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