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Debunking Joint Replacement Myths: Insights from Dr. Shapiro 

Posted on February 28, 2024

Joint pain can be a significant challenge in daily life, leading many individuals to consider joint replacement. However, in this age of misinformation, there are several commons myths that discourage people from a procedure that could save them from decades of pain.  Joint replacement expert, Dr. Joshua Shapiro, sheds light on several myths that often cloud the decision-making process for patients dealing with joint pain.   

Myth 1: Avoid a Joint Replacement for as Long as Possible 

Reality: Dr. Shapiro stressed the importance of seeking evaluation when pain significantly impacts your daily activities. He stated, “It is important to come in for an evaluation when your pain significantly impacts your quality of life. .” Dr. Shapiro explained that many patients wait too long due to fear of the recovery process. He acknowledged that recovery may seem daunting, but most patients see a huge quality of life improvement after surgery.  

Dr. Shapiro pointed out that if you wait too long and continue to live in pain, it may limit the benefit you see after surgery. “For most patients, the activity level we can expect one year after surgery usually mimics your activity level one year before surgery. If you wait too long, those activities may not be possible even after joint replacement” he explained. 

Myth 2: Joint Replacements Have a Short Lifespan  

Reality: Advances in implant design and manufacturing have significantly improved the longevity of joint replacements. Dr. Shapiro assured, “Most of these joint replacements are going to last three or more decades. So if you’re in your 50s or 60s, there’s a good chance that your joint replacement will outlive you. 

Myth 3: Joint Replacement is the Only Option for Joint Pain 

Reality: Contrary to the misconception that joint replacement is the sole solution for joint pain, Dr. Shapiro highlighted a range of care options. He explained, “joint replacement is certainly an option for moderate to severe arthritis, but it is not the only option. Some patients can see substantial relief from nonsurgical measures such as physical therapy, medications, injections, and bracing before considering surgery. 

Myth 4: You Shouldn’t Get a Joint Replacement Because of Your Age  

Reality: Dr. Shapiro debunked the notion that age is a limiting factor for joint replacement. He stated, “I don’t see age as anything more than a number.  I’m more concerned with your current health and the benefits you’ll see from the operation.” Dr. Shapiro explained that joint replacement can be a viable option for individuals of varying ages.  In fact, he’d recently operated on a patient in their late 80s who is now able to walk again because of the procedure. 

For patients on the younger end of the spectrum, he agreed that joint replacement is a tougher conversation. “There’s a social stigma of having a joint replacement when you’re young.  But if you are in pain in your 30s from severe arthritis, and you’re willing to accept the chance that you may eventually need another replacement, you should not put have to wait to get older before exploring options for pain relief”  

Myth 5: Overweight Individuals Can’t Get Joint Replacement  

Reality: Weight is certainly a factor to consider, as there are additional medical and surgical risks associated with being overweight. However, Dr. Shapiro made the point, “Like age, weight is just a number. The vast majority of patients who are overweight will undergo the procedure without an issue.  As long as you’re able to heal from surgery, then you’re certainly a candidate.” He explained that nutritional status plays a crucial role in healing.  If patients understand the increased risks of complications and are willing to move forward, it is generally safe to proceed with surgery. 

Myth 6: Joint Replacement Limits Activity 

Reality: The rule of thumb is that most people will resume the level of activity that they were doing one year prior to surgery. Dr. Shapiro clarifies, “I’m sure a lot of people who have been dealing with long-term pain may have avoided some of the higher impact activities such as running long distances or skiing.  But if you have been able to do those activitiest within the last year, then chances are high that you’ll be able to resume them about 1-year post-surgery.” 

Myth 7: Recovery Will Take Weeks in the Hospital  

Reality: Dr. Shapiro recognized that this myth was based on a past truth. “It was probably the case even 10-15 years ago that patients checked into a hospital for a week or two after surgery.  Now, these surgeries are considered outpatient, which means that you can go home the same day.” A number of factors go into deciding who can go home the same day and who would benefit from one to two nights in the hospital.   The goal is for patients to recover at home with their families as soon as it is safe.  

Myth 8: One-Size-Fits-All Implants  

Reality: Joint implants come in millimeter increments, and custom options are available if needed. Dr. Shapiro uses X-rays to inform implant selection, stating, “I use the X-ray to help guide what size I think it’s going to be, and then I can confirm that during surgery.” He emphasized there is a personalized approach to implant selection based on the patient’s anatomy and requirements. 

Myth 9: High Risk of Complications  

Reality: The overall risk of complications is low, ranging from 2-3%. Dr. Shapiro highlighted, “Most of that risk is related to infection.  There have been many advancements to reduce that risk, and this is the lowest rate it has ever been.” He explained that the low risk is contingent on various patient factors and underlined the importance of discussing risks and benefits with the surgeon. 

Don’t let myths dictate your choices. As you consider your options for joint health, it’s important to make informed decisions. If you or someone you know is contemplating joint replacement, take the first step towards a pain-free future. Request an appointment or give us a call at 303-233-1223