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What’s in a Joint Replacement?

June 03, 2019

Joint replacement involves surgery to replace the ends of bones in a damaged joint. This surgery creates new artificial surfaces in the hips, knees and other joints. In knee replacement surgery, for example, the ends of the damaged thigh and lower leg bones, and usually the kneecap, are capped with these new artificial surfaces.

These ‘new parts’ will help you stand and walk much better than you did before joint replacement surgery. But just like new parts in an appliance or car, they can wear down or loosen over time. That’s why it’s important these parts are made of durable materials that will last a long time.

In the middle of the 20th century, many parts were made of the same metal as an average non-stick cooking pan. But as recently as the 1990s, the metals changed to more durable types like polyethylene and cobalt-chromium.

Today, most joint replacement parts are made of advanced alloy metals, ceramics and plastics to reduce friction and make the joint replacement components last. And then a special type of cement is used to attach those parts to the healthy bone that remains.

At the Hartford HealthCare Bone & Joint Institute, we consider your lifestyle, age and gender when deciding which kind of implant to use. We use this information to help us best tailor the actual surgery to you as well.

“There’s no one right material for everyone,” said Dr. Jeffrey Burns, one of the board-certified orthopedic surgeons at the Institute. “We tailor each joint replacement to the person receiving it so they get the highest quality materials available, and also the materials that will work best for their specific lifestyle. We then tailor the surgical approach to the patient as well so everything is truly personalized.”

The materials are only part of the equation. Artificial joints should last longer if you are not overweight and you do not do hard physical work or play sports that stress the joint. And if you are older than 60 when you have joint replacement surgery, the artificial joint will probably last the rest of your life.

To connect to a doctor who specializes in joint replacement surgery or register for a class to learn more, click here.