Joint replacement surgery involves the removal of the damaged joint surfaces and replacing them with metallic implants. The surgery is a major surgery that may make the patient anxious and various doubts arise in their minds. The fear of surgery and various questions like ‘what if’ can lead to delay of joint replacement surgery. Timely performed Knee/Hip replacement surgery is very rewarding and satisfying for the patient. There are various drawbacks in delaying joint replacement surgeries.
Worsening of the joint
The wear and tear of the joint progress to advanced stages and increase in deformity. In knees there can be an increase in bowing of the legs and in hips there can be an increase in shortening of the affected leg. This may result in difficult surgery requiring specialized implants. At times because of excessive delay and bowing, fractures occur in leg bones thus making the same surgery very complicated.
Decrease in muscle strength
As arthritis progresses, muscles surrounding the joint are likely to weaken. People use the joint less and limit their physical exertion as a result of their pain. As the muscles weaken, rehabilitation after surgery may become more difficult, and perhaps the muscles may never regain their full strength.
Affect on other joints
The function of the affected joint decreases. As a result, the other joints of the body have to work harder which increases stress and can lead to damage of other joints.
Degeneration of Lower Back
In cases where there is an excessive delay in surgery and patients keep walking with bowing of legs/ knock knees or unequal leg length, the majority brunt is borne by lower back which already is aging out. This delay might compromise the end result of joint replacement because of persistent back issues with pain going down the leg.
General Medical health
Due to decreased movements, patients may develop increased medical problems. Weight increases, heart and lung complications may increase and stamina decreases.
Increased requirement of pain killers
With increasing joint damage, the requirement for pain Killers increases which may result in an increase in complications from long-term use of pain killers.
As hip and knee arthritis worsens, the stiffness of the arthritic joints also worsens. This can make the replacement surgery more difficult. That may mean longer recovery and more physical therapy. Unfortunately in severe cases, joint flexibility may never return to normal. By waiting too long, you may not get the full benefits of your hip and knee replacement surgery.