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Clues A New Joint May Be For You: April 21, 2013

Hundreds of thousands of Americans do it every year. Get one or more of their joints replaced. Many are like Jeanne Quinn, who put off surgery until she could hardly stand it.

“Everything had worn out on my knee. It was bone hitting bone, so it was very uncomfortable,” says Jeanne Quinn.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes for surgery.  It’s a breakdown of cartilage resulting in damage to underlying tissue and bone. It leads to pain, stiffness and loss of mobility.

“The main reason people get arthritic joints is primarily genetics. It’s a combination of your parent’s genes that will tell you how long your cartilage will last.  And there are instances where being involved in sports aggravates or causes problems,” says Dr. David Heligman, orthopedic surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

While most joint replacement patients are older, longer-lasting joints make a viable option for younger people. And less traumatic surgery is helping patients get back on their quicker.

“The implants that we use now, the technology has gotten much better, and our surgical approach to putting them in is much improved. Once we get them rehabbed, I allow my patients to do pretty much anything they want to do,” says Dr. Heligman.

We’ve compiled clues, to help you decide if you’re due: Are you dependent on medications to control your symptoms? Have you limited your activities? Do you have more bad days than good? Would you like to be more active? If you answered mostly ‘yes’ it may be time to talk.

“We remove the arthritic bone and replace it with our implants, all that pain goes away. The motion improves and obviously increases your quality of life,” says Dr. Heligman.

It often takes years for someone to make the decision, and only weeks before they recognize the improvement.

“I was in pain before and now I’m not. So that was a difference,” says Quinn.