Frequently Asked Questions What is osteoarthritis and why does my joint hurt? Joint cartilage is a tough, smooth tissue that covers the ends of bones where joints are located. It helps cushion the bones during movement, and because it is smooth and slippery, it allows for motion with minimal friction. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a wear and tear condition that destroys joint cartilage. Sometimes, as the result of trauma, repetitive movement, or for no apparent reason, the cartilage wears down, exposing the bone ends. Over time, cartilage destruction can result in painful bone-on-bone contact, along with swelling and loss of motion. Osteoarthritis usually occurs later in life and may affect a single joint or many joints. How long will my new joint last and can a second replacement be done? All implants have a limited life expectancy depending on an individual’s age, weight, activity level, and medical conditions. A total joint implant’s longevity will vary with every patient. It is important to remember that an implant is a medical device subject to wear that may lead to mechanical failure. While it is important to follow all your surgeon’s recommendations after surgery, there is no guarantee that your particular implant will last for any specified length of time. What are the major risks? The following is a list of potential complications and risks associated with major surgeries such as total joint replacement. This list is provided not to scare you but to inform you of the possible risk of the procedure: Complications from anesthesia Infection Dislocation Loosening of implants Injury to nerves Injury to blood vessels Leg length inequality (leg shorter or longer) Fracture of your bone during implantation Blood clots Blood loss Transfusion reactions Death Your surgeon is aware of these possible complications and takes many precautions to reduce these risks. If you have any question or concerns about these or other complications of surgery, please discuss them with your surgeon. What is total knee replacement? The term total knee replacement is misleading. The knee itself is not replaced, as is commonly thought, but rather an implant is used to re-cap the worn bone ends. This is done by placing metal alloy on the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone), a plastic spacer between the metals, and a plastic “button” behind the patella (kneecap). This creates a new smooth cushion and a functioning joint that can reduce or eliminate pain. What is total hip replacement? In a total hip replacement (also called total hip arthroplasty) the damaged bone and cartilage is removed and replaced with prosthetic components. The damaged femoral head is removed and replaced with a metal stem that is placed into the hollow center of the femur. The femoral stem may be either cemented or "press fit" into the bone. A metal or ceramic ball is placed on the upper part of the stem. This ball replaces the damaged femoral head that was removed. The damaged cartilage surface of the socket (acetabulum) is removed and replaced with a metal socket. Screws or cement are sometimes used to hold the socket in place. A plastic, ceramic, or metal spacer is inserted between the new ball and the socket to allow for a smooth gliding surface. Will my new joint set off security sensors when traveling? Your joint replacement is made of a metal alloy and may or may not be detected when going through some security devices. You can carry a medic alert card indicating that you have an artificial joint, but security at check points usually don’t heed the cards, they will need to use their wand devices to check you. Check with your surgeon on how to obtain a medic alert card. Will I need a blood transfusion? You may need blood during or after surgery. The risks are higher after hip replacement versus knee replacement. Your surgeon may choose to give you a medication called tranexamic acid, in the operating room, to help decrease the amount of blood loss in surgery. Your surgeon may recommend that you take iron pills after surgery to help your body regenerate hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying portion of your blood, after surgery. When can I have sex after joint replacement surgery? Sexual activity is not recommended immediately after surgery. Sexual activity can often resume safely at four to six weeks after surgery, but it could be longer. Your surgeon will determine what timeframe is safe for you. Following precautions to prevent dislocation is very important.