Skip to main content

Joint Replacement Surgery

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What do I need to know about joint replacement surgery?

A joint that is damaged by injury or disease can be removed and replaced with a new one. There are times when only a part of the joint needs to be replaced or repaired. Your healthcare provider may try other treatments before joint replacement surgery, such as steroid injections or medicines. Pain relief and increased function are the goals of joint replacement. Knee, hip, and shoulder joints are the most common joints replaced. Joints in your elbows, fingers, and ankles can also be repaired or replaced.

How do I prepare for joint replacement surgery?

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for surgery. You may be told not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. Your provider will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of your surgery.

What will happen during joint replacement surgery?

You may be given medicine to keep you asleep and pain free during your surgery. You may be given an injection of medicine that stops the pain in the area of surgery. Your healthcare provider will remove the damaged joint and replace it with a new one. Your new joint may be made out of metal, plastic, or other materials. Your new joint may allow bone to grow or it may be cemented into place. It may also be cemented if your bones are weak or of poor quality. A drain may be placed to remove extra blood and fluids from the surgery area. Your incision will be closed with stitches or staples and covered with a bandage.

What will happen after joint replacement surgery?

After surgery, you will probably need to stay in the hospital for a few days. You may need to wear pressure stockings and take blood thinner medicine to help prevent blood clots in your legs. You may need support devices, such as a walker, crutches, or wheel chair. You may have an immobilizer, splint, brace, or cast. You may need physical therapy even after being discharged from the hospital.

What are the risks of joint replacement surgery?

Your risk of infection, bleeding, and blood clots increase with surgery. You may be allergic to the material used in your new joint. Nerves, muscles, tendons, and blood vessels near your joint may become damaged during surgery. The new joint may loosen or come out of the socket. The materials used to make your new joint may wear thin or loosen. You may need another surgery if you have any of these problems.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Learn more about Joint Replacement Surgery

Care guides

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.