Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is arthritis and what causes it?

A: Arthritis is an umbrella term for a number of disease entities in which the joints become inflamed and the cartilage that lines the bones deteriorates. Eventually, bone on bone wear occurs. As the disease progresses, patients often experience pain, stiffness, and disability. The vast majority of people diagnosed have osteoarthritis and in most cases the cause of their condition cannot be identified. One or more joints may be affected. Rheumatoid Arthritis (and other forms of inflammatory arthritis) is a disease that affects the entire system and multiple joints. This type of arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body perceives the cartilage to be a foreign substance and attacks it.

Q: If I have arthritis in one knee, will I get it in the other?

A: If you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, having an affected knee does not mean that you will develop arthritis in the opposite knee. About 40 percent of patients who have osteoarthritis in one knee will have the same condition in the other knee. In contrast, patients with rheumatoid arthritis often develop problems in both knees.

Q: What is joint replacement?

A: Joint replacement is a surgical procedure that replaces a worn out or injured joint – most often the knee or hip – with a metal, ceramic or plastic joint. Joint replacement is the standard of care for relieving pain and restoring mobility to severely arthritic or injured joints that have not responded adequately to medications, physical therapy or other treatments.

Q: What are the primary benefits of joint replacement?

A: The two primary benefits of joint replacement are pain relief and improved mobility. These two factors allow most people to maintain a more active lifestyle and that can lead to other health benefits such as weight management and reducing risk of heart disease.

Q: How long does an artificial joint last?

A: It’s impossible to predict how long a new joint will last, since factors such as age, weight, activity level and bone strength all play a role. Most studies show that more than 90 percent of the time, a new joint lasts for 20 years. We expect that your new joint will bring you many years of pain-free activity.

Q: Will there be a lot of pain after surgery?

A: As with any surgery, especially one that involves a weight bearing joint such as your knee or hip, there will be some pain following surgery and during your recovery. However, our orthopaedic surgeons use cutting edge technology that can reduce pain and speed recovery; our anesthesiologists and pain management specialists are trained in the most advanced pain management therapies and will work with you to control pain as much as possible. Typically, the sooner after surgery you can get up, move around and begin physical therapy, the quicker pain and soreness will diminish.

Q: How long do joint replacement surgery and recovery typically take?

A: In general, the surgery to replace a knee or hip takes between 90 minutes and 2 hours. You’ll need to arrive early so that our team of nurses and anesthesiologists can complete an assessment before surgery. If your surgery is in the morning, you will begin physical therapy later that day. If it is scheduled for the afternoon, your therapy will begin the next morning. A typical hospital stay after your surgery is 2 to 4 days. You should be able to walk comfortably with a walker or cane before leaving the hospital. You may need to use a walker or cane for 2 to 3 weeks after surgery, but this varies with each patient. If you work and your job requires a lot of standing, movement or physical exertion, it may be approximately 4 to 6 weeks after surgery before you can return to work. It is important that you discuss this with your surgeon as you plan for joint replacement surgery. While it varies for each patient, many people are able to start driving in about 2 to 4 weeks and resume recreational activities such as golf within 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. Your surgeon will give you specific guidelines for activity based on your individual circumstances.

Q: Where will I go after discharge from the hospital?

A: Most patients are able to go home directly after discharge. A few patients may transfer to a sub-acute or acute rehab facility where they will stay from 3 to 5 days. The Case Management staff will work with you during your hospital stay to help you with this decision and will make the necessary arrangements. You should check with your insurance carrier to verify your sub-acute and acute rehab benefits.

Q: Will I need help at home?

A: Yes, for the first several days or weeks, depending on your progress, you will need someone to assist you with meal preparation, etc. If you go directly home from the hospital, the University of Miami Case Management staff will help arrange for home health care to come to your house if needed. Family or friends need to be available to help if possible.

Q: Will I need home medical or assistive equipment?

A: Yes, we recommend that you use a walker or cane for about 6 weeks. You may also benefit from assistive devices to help with lower body dressing, and a bath seat. If you have hip replacement surgery, you will also need a high toilet seat for about 3 months. Our case manager can arrange for equipment prior to your discharge.

Q: How often will I need to be seen by my doctor following the surgery?

A: You will be seen for your first postoperative office visit two to three weeks after discharge. The frequency of follow-up visits will depend on your progress. Many patients are seen at six weeks, twelve weeks and then yearly.

Q: Why do I have to take a blood-thinning drug after surgery?

A: Your risk for developing a blood clot goes up and stays up for at least two months – possibly longer – after the operation. There is no way to predict who is at highest risk for development blood clots after surgery, so all patients having knee or hip replacement are treated with drugs called “anticoagulants.” These drugs make your blood thinner and less likely to clump together.

See below links for additional information regarding joint replacement surgery.