Healthy Joints are the Bee's Knees:

Faster, easier options for joint replacement

Hip, knee and shoulder replacements just aren’t what they used to be—thankfully.

Today’s improved joint replacements require shorter hospital stays and recovery times. As a result, these surgeries are more often a first choice for those with active lives rather than a last-resort option for the severely disabled. And joint replacement patients are getting younger: A decade ago patients were more likely to be in their 60s or older, but surgeons now mostly treat patients who are age 50 and older.

Patients today are not willing to live with disability. That’s why replacements are occurring more commonly than they used to,” says Dr. Jennifer FitzPatrick of PMG Orthopedics. “People are extending their lifestyles and participating in activities our parents or grandparents would not,” adds Dr. Rickland Likes of PMG Orthopedics.

Not only are the typical joint replacement patients different than they were a decade or two ago, so is the surgery itself. Most of the physicians who specialize in joint replacements today have completed hundreds--and in many cases, thousands--of these surgeries and know how to anticipate complications.

How it Works

Your hip, knee and shoulder joints are lined with cartilage that helps them move easily. When that cartilage is worn away by arthritis or other diseases, it hurts to move the joint. During joint replacement surgery, the damaged joint lining is replaced by a metal, plastic and/or ceramic prosthesis, generally a ball and a socket.

Joint replacement parts come in many more sizes than they used to, adjusted for women and men as well as for the size of the patient. The more customized parts mean the replacement joints fit better, cause less pain and require less recovery time, says Dr. Robert Thomas.

Although any artificial part eventually will wear out, new ceramic bearing technology, rather than stainless steel parts, can help replacements last longer, says Dr. Thomas. A typical replacement joint will last 20 years, but the longevity varies depending on the patient and joint condition.

MRI imaging has helped surgeons better align replacement joints, adds Dr. Lucas King, which also leads to a better fit, a shorter hospital stay and overall a more positive experience.

Non-surgical options

Before exploring joint replacement, your doctor typically will have you try a range of over-the-counter and prescription remedies for pain management. An arthritis brace--a custom device that is more substantial than an Ace bandage--can help shift your gait and alignment, thus reducing pain when the joint is used. Other braces may keep a joint warm, also reducing pain.

Cortisone injections, which typically combine a corticosteroid medication and a local anesthetic, may help reduce pain for up to three months. Dr. Mark Porter says some of his patients repeat these injections for years and successfully ward off the need for surgery. In addition, weight loss can help decrease the strain on arthritic joints.

Up and at 'em

If surgery does become necessary, rehab typically begins right away after the operation, which generally takes up to two and a half hours for a hip or knee replacement, and two to four hours for a shoulder replacement. Most surgeons like to have their patients up and walking (with assistance, of course) the same day as their surgery, Dr. Likes says.

The hospital stay for joint replacement usually is three days. You’ll receive physical therapy starting in the hospital, and then either at home or as an outpatient, likely three times a week. You’ll probably be able to participate in your favorite activities again, possibly within six to eight weeks. But Dr. King urges sticking to low-impact sports like walking, golf and swimming.

“I do not get upset about a basketball game at a family picnic,” he says. “But the heavy pounding of joining a basketball team can be hard.” Adds Dr. King: “After surgery, patients feel more natural. They feel like they can do stuff, the things they did when they were young.”

Making the decision

Although some joint replacement surgery is necessitated by a fall, a car accident or other trauma, the more common reason is the cumulative effects of arthritis and chronic diseases, says Dr. Thomas.

The decision to have surgery is a gray area that tends to be driven by the patient’s needs and desires, he says: “It boils down to a quality of life issue. When can they no longer tolerate hip or joint pain?”

“We used to look at the X-rays, but they don’t necessarily mean a patient needs to have a joint replacement,” explains Dr. Thomas. “You have to talk to the patient. If the pain doesn’t interfere with their lifestyle, then it doesn’t matter what the X-rays say.”

5 reasons to consider joint replacement surgery

  1. Severe joint pain or stiffness that inhibits everyday activities
  2. Moderate or severe joint pain while resting
  3. Chronic joint inflammation and swelling that isn’t helped by rest or medication
  4. Joint deformity
  5. No major improvement in joint pain after other less-invasive treatments

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Joint Replacement Class Video

Our Ortho Doctors

Jennfier FitzPatrick, MD

Dr. FitzPatrickSpecialties: Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine

“I've always had a calling for medicine, but my path towards orthopedics began as an athlete and patient. Ultimately, I had surgery that helped me return to my senior year of college athletics. That experience is my driving motivation to understand and have greater compassion with my patients."

Rickland Likes, DO

Dr. LikesSpecialty: Orthopedic Surgery

Dr. Rickland Likes, a Colorado native, received his medical education from the University of New England, followed by an internship and orthopedic residency at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, learning the latest techniques in joint replacement, fracture care, and minimally invasive surgery.

Lucas King, MD

Dr. KingSpecialties: Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine

Dr. Lucas King is a sports fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon with a special interest in the care of athletes at the high school, collegiate and professional level as well as weekend warriors. Dr. King provides a wide range of orthopedic care and specializes in disorders of the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee, performing minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery. He also performs joint replacement for arthritis. Dr. King serves as a team physician for CSU-Pueblo athletics.

Mark Porter, MD

Dr. PorterSpecialty: Orthopedic Surgery

Dr. Mark Porter, a 16-year U.S. military veteran, came to Pueblo after his most recent station at Evans Army Community Hospital in Fort Carson, CO. Dr. Porter began his military career in the Coast Guard before pursuing his undergraduate degree at U.C. Davis and his medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences. Dr. Porter completed his residency in the Orthopedic Surgery Program at William Beaumont Army Medical Center at Texas Tech University in El Paso, TX.

Robert Thomas, MD

Dr. ThomasSpecialty: Orthopedic Surgery

Dr. Robert Thomas came to Pueblo with more than 25 years of orthopedic experience. Dr. Thomas began his medical career as a physical therapist, providing him an experienced start to medical school at the Medical College of Virginia, followed by orthopedic residency at Albany Medical Center.

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Custom Care From Start to Finish

Patient Education

  • Your orthopedic surgeon will provide specific instructions for your procedure during your appointment.
  • Parkview Health System's Joint Replacement class is offered every week to prepare you for your procedure and educate you on what you can to do have the best outcome after surgery.
  • The pre-admissions appointment at Parkview will provide you with detailed instructions of what to do the day of your procedure.

The Joint and Spine Center

Joint Commission Approval BadgeThis is the award-winning, nationally recognized hospital floor at Parkview where you will stay after your surgery. The care team on this floor are experts in caring for patients who have just had an orthopedic or spine surgery. Only two hospitals in Colorado have earned the gold seal from the Joint Commission for their orthopedic care and outcomes, and Parkview is proud to be one of them.


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