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Joint Preservation or Joint Replacement?

Joint replacement for the knees, hips and shoulders has come a long way over the years. Last year alone, more than 1 million Americans underwent hip or knee replacement surgery. Yet, while the materials and surgical techniques have improved and joint replacement continues to eliminate pain and restores function, it is not always a perfect solution.

Fortunately, orthopedic surgeons are placing increased importance on joint preservation for patients whenever possible.

Joint preservation means intervening early as joints start to deteriorate and taking steps to slow or halt their progression. This can include tactics such as physical therapy, injections, anti-inflammatories and non-invasive surgery.  These treatments can greatly improve someone’s quality of life who is suffering from joint pain.

For those under 75, getting a joint replacement can mean a second surgery when you’re older because the materials used in joint replacement have a limited life span. While joint replacements can greatly benefit those suffering from severe pain, undergoing a replacement surgery is a permanent decision that needs time to be considered.

One main reason patients undergo replacement surgery is because of damage to cartilage that allows joints to move smoothly. Cartilage damage can occur from an acute injury or over time due to arthritis. Common symptoms of cartilage damage include joint pain, stiffness, swelling, limitations in motion, creaking or cracking. The injury may have taken place many years before, but only manifests itself later on in life.

Fortunately however, newer techniques of cartilage and bone restoration have allowed joint preservation to become a viable option for patients with cartilage damage. Modern cartilage restoration techniques include the use of the following treatment processes:

  • Autograft: Taking a graft of cartilage from one point on an individual’s body and using it on another part to replace damaged cartilage
  • Allograft: using cartilage from a donor to replace old cartilage
  • Microfracture: During microfracture surgery, the surgeon drills small holes (or fractures) into the bone where the cartilage lesion lies. Through these holes, blood and bone marrow flow into the damaged area. This gradually creates a clot that forms cartilage.

Other new surgical treatments are also available or on the horizon. This includes the use of stem cells and various biological innovations and surgical techniques, making joint preservation increasingly possible.

The ideal scenario is for us to keep our joints as long as possible as opposed to replacing them with implants. If you can maintain the natural joint longer by reducing the progression of the injury to arthritis, the need for a replacement can be delayed for years. Today, medical innovation offers new hope for preserving injured joints. If you have questions or concerns about joint pain and are interested in looking into joint replacement or preservation techniques, make sure to consult your physician.


Angels Senior Home Solutions is a based-in-faith company that provides in-home healthcare and personal care services for seniors. Visit our website here.

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