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7:29 PM Thu, Sept. 20th

Planning puts you ahead after joint replacement surgery

If joint replacement surgery is on your 2013 healthcare to-do list, you're not alone. Approximately 1 million Americans a year have knee or hip replacement surgery, according to the National Institutes of Health. As the Baby Boom generation ages, the pace of joint replacement surgery in the U.S. will accelerate to 4.5 million annually by 2030.

Western Yavapai County is no exception to this trend. With this increased need for joint replacement, area residents are fortunate that Yavapai Regional Medical Center's (YRMC's) Orthopedic Joint Re-placement program is one of the finest in the nation.

Knee replacement is by far the most common joint replacement surgery, followed by hip replacement. Shoulder and ankle replacements are a distant third and fourth. According to Spencer F. Schuenman, DO, YRMC Orthopedic Surgeon, joint replacement surgery used to be considered a last-resort procedure. People in their mid-50s often delayed knee or hip replacement until their 70s.

"Today's older population is more active than in the past," he said. "Joint replacement is seen as a way to continue that active lifestyle."

How quickly can some-one return to an active lifestyle after joint replacement surgery? That depends on the reason for the operation as well as how well the individual prepares for the surgery. Weight, occupation and genetics play a significant role in whether or not someone will require joint replacement.

Twenty years ago, rheumatoid arthritis was the most common reason for joint replacement surgery. With improved treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis - caused largely by trauma and wear and tear on the body - has stepped up as the leading reason for joint replacements.

"How we're built as humans certainly plays a role," Dr. Schuenman said. "We walk upright and gravity eventually can take a toll."

Whatever the reason for the joint replacement surgery, planning is necessary to ensure a full and safe recovery. Because people often know they're going to need joint replacement surgery well in advance, they can use that time to prepare physically and emotionally. For example, losing weight, increasing cardio-pulmonary endurance and building upper-body strength can help people re-gain mobility faster after joint replacement surgery.

Jill Brown, YRMC Occupational Therapy Assistant, advises people undergoing joint replacement to think beyond the surgery and hospitalization in order to devise a recovery plan. Part of that plan may include attending a pre-surgery, hip or knee replacement class. Additionally, she recommends joining YRMC's guided-imagery class as a way to reduce anxiety about the upcoming surgery. Both of these classes take place at the Wellness Center at YRMC West.

"Are there stairs in your house? Do you have family and friends who will help you? Is your bathroom accessible? All of these questions help people determine their options after surgery," said Brown, who teaches YRMC's Pre-Operative Joint Replacement Class. "Some people will be able to go home to family members, others may need a rehab facility, but everyone will require home health. It's also important to know if your insurance covers rehab and home health."

Fortunately, new minimally invasive surgeries and better technology have decreased recovery times from months to weeks for some joint replacement surgeries. Even so, Dr. Schuenman emphasizes that strong planning can help patients achieve their goals and return to an active lifestyle in a relatively short time.