Improving Success of Hip & Knee Replacement Surgery

The risk of complications after hip replacement and knee replacement surgery can be reduced with a number of lifestyle strategies, including weight control, avoiding alcohol, and not smoking.

Surgical complications can involve infections, persistent pain, inadequate wound healing, and joint stiffness. When you are considering hip or knee replacement surgery, it's important that you are ready to take the steps that can help prevent complications.

1

Weight Loss

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Obesity can exacerbate joint pain and can contribute to the need for joint replacement. Obesity also makes knee and joint replacement surgery riskier. 

People who have a body mass index (BMI) of more than 40 are at a higher risk of post-operative infection and have a higher likelihood of requiring revision joint replacement surgery.

If you are overweight, it's important that you focus on losing weight prior to your joint replacement surgery. Exercise can be difficult when you have chronic joint pain, but there are ways to exercise that don't place too much stress on joints. Your healthcare provider or physical therapist can guide you when it comes to safe and pain-free physical activity.

2

Quit Smoking

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Smoking and tobacco products affect microvascular circulation, which has a direct impact on healing after surgery, including joint replacement surgery.

Smoking increases the chance of developing wound infections, experiencing wound healing problems, and readmission to the hospital after joint replacement surgery.

Quitting smoking prior to surgery can improve the outcome after joint replacement. Most surgeons recommend that you quit smoking for a minimum of six weeks, if not longer, prior to undergoing surgery—and some surgeons are starting to obtain pre-operative nicotine tests to help ensure the best possible surgical outcomes. 

3

Avoid Alcohol

wine
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While drinking alcohol infrequently or in moderation is unlikely to lead to risks related to joint replacement surgery, drinking frequently or heavily can increase the chances of surgical complications.

If possible, limiting alcohol consumption prior to elective surgery can help prevent complications. And informing your healthcare team about the amount of alcohol you consume is equally important.

It is well known that people often underestimate the amount of alcohol they consume. If you are unsure of how much you drink, keep a daily log by writing down how many drinks you consume each day for a few weeks. Give this information to your healthcare provider to help them manage your care when you undergo surgery.

Prolonged hospitalization is the most common surgical complication that affects people who consume heavy alcohol.

4

Address Anemia

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Anemia is a condition in which you have a low red blood cell (RCB) count or impaired RBC function. RBCs are oxygen-carrying cells, and a deficiency can cause problems related to surgical healing. Anemia also increases the likelihood that you may need a blood transfusion after having a joint replacement.

Causes of anemia include:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Inflammatory conditions


Most often, postoperative anemia can be prevented with treatment prior to surgery.

The treatment for different types of anemia varies. Iron deficiency anemia is often managed with nutritional supplements, whereas other types of anemia may require medications or interventions.

5

Maintain Mental Health

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Mental health plays a significant role in the likelihood of a successful outcome after joint replacement surgery. People who have clinical depression are more prone to experiencing severe post-operative pain, developing surgical complications, are less satisfied with the results of the surgery, and have a higher chance of needing revision joint replacement.

It is important to identify clinical depression prior to undergoing joint replacement surgery.

If you are diagnosed with depression, you can get treatment from a mental health professional prior to undergoing surgery so you can optimize the results of your joint replacement surgery.

A Word From Verywell

The decision about whether you should have joint replacement surgery requires careful consideration. The outcomes of this type of surgery tend to be very good. However, complications can occur, and avoiding these complications should be one of your top priorities. Following these steps will help you gain some control of your risk of complications.

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