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Joint Replacements: Hip and Knee Replacements

Hip and knee replacements have been very common surgical procedures in the United States for the past thirty years. Both procedures have been successful in relieving pain. A secondary benefit of hip replacement has been improved motion in the hip. In knee replacements a benefit has been that much of the deformity in a knee created by arthritis can be corrected with the surgery. While the procedures are common both have certain risks. Hip and knee replacement require either general or spinal anesthetics and a four to seven day stay in the hospital. Any major surgery and particularly surgery on the leg creates a risk of blood clots. Blood clots which go to the lung or heart can be fatal. Major surgery also puts a strain on all the organ systems such as the heart, the lungs and the kidneys. People who have problems in those areas prior to the operation are at particular risk of developing increased problem. The infection rate following hip or knee replacement is approximately 1-2%. That is a relatively low risk, but if you are the one who develops infection it is a catastrophic complication which may require several additional operative procedures. This is not a complete listing of potential problems or potential benefits, but it is an overview to let you know that while joint replacement can achieve great success it is serious business with significant risks.

Once you have made the decision to go ahead with joint replacement there are other steps you need to take. First you need to decide weather you want to donate your own blood in preparation for the surgery. If you do the transfusion you receive would be your own blood rather than blood from the hospital blood bank. Blood bank blood is carefully screened but there is still a slight chance that the Hepatitis virus or even the AIDS virus can be transmitted through a blood transfusion. If you decide to give a unit of blood for your surgery or you have a family member donate for you, donations should be made at least two weeks prior to the operation. You donate at LIFEBLOOD locations around town and can contact us so that we can send appropriate orders. You do not need an appointment to donate but an order must be on file so that LIFEBLOOD knows when and where to take the blood for your surgery.

You need to see your family physician, internist or cardiologist prior to the operation to let them determine whether you have medical problems that would make surgery unwise. Appropriate lab work and EKG need to be done by your physician or at the hospital prior to the operation. If your doctor performs the test, please have them send us or fax us the results along with the letter of medical clearance a few days prior to the operative date.

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