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Replacing your Joint Replacement: August 03, 2011

The clock is ticking on Delores Aegerter’s artificial knees.

“I’m 80 now, so I must’ve been 60.” It was 20 years ago when she had both knees replaced. That’s nearing the lifespan of many artificial joints.

“A joint replacement is just like your original parts, they can’t last forever; 25 or 30 years down the road, that knee or hip may need to be redone,” says Dr. Ed Humbert, an orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

Surgery to fix a replaced joint is called a revision.

“Revising or redoing a knee is basically going in and finding the part that flawed or worn, you remove that part and re-implant it with a different component,” says Dr. Humbert.

Overtime, parts within the artificial joints tend to loosen or wear out. Surgeons are able to trouble shoot the problem and then swap out the worn piece.

“We don’t necessarily have to change the whole implant, we can change the isolated parts that have loosened or have worn out and leave the good part behind,” says Dr. Humbert.

There are warning signs for replacement patients to look out for.

“The pain you get with a loose component is just like you had with your original arthritis; there’s severe pain, there’s severe swelling and as soon as you fix that problem the pain goes away,” says Dr. Humbert.

Younger patients, who may have had primary joint replacement in their 40s or 50s tend to put more stress on their bodies and are more likely to need a revision. Older patients like Delores may get more miles on their mended knees.

“They feel pretty good yet I mean I’m not, I can’t complain. I’m not having any problems.”

The 20 year mark is the benchmark after which the revision rate goes up 5% a year.