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Surgery and Arthritis: An Interview with Mr. Gavin McHugh

Mr. Gavin McHugh, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon with UPMC Sports Surgery Clinic, joins Grainne O’Leary, chief executive of Arthritis Ireland to discuss surgery and arthritis. If you are exploring treatment options or preparing for surgery, watch Mr. McHugh’s video interview above and summary below for questions and answers.

Why Consider Surgery for Arthritis?

Surgery for arthritis is often considered when pain and disability significantly affect a person's quality of life. While it's not always deemed "necessary," individuals may benefit from joint replacement if pain disrupts daily activities or sleep, or when conservative measures like weight loss and strengthening exercises have been exhausted.

What are Other Options for Arthritis Management Besides Surgery?

Before opting for surgery, individuals may explore conservative measures such as weight loss, strengthening exercises (especially for quads and glutes), and pain management with medications like paracetamol and anti-inflammatories. However, it's essential to consult with your GP or other healthcare professional before making decisions.

When is Surgery Considered the Better Option for Arthritis Management?

Surgery becomes a viable option when an individual's quality of life is significantly impacted, and the benefits of surgery outweigh the potential risks. Factors such as pain severity and disruption to daily activities are crucial considerations.

What are the Risks Associated with Joint Replacement Surgery?

While joint replacement surgery has evolved with improved safety, it still carries risks such as infection, clotting, stiffness, and dislocation. However, these risks are relatively rare, and healthcare providers take precautions to minimise them.

How can Individuals Prepare for Surgery and Improve Outcomes?

Maintaining a healthy weight and strengthening muscles around the affected joint can improve surgical outcomes. Physiotherapy may also be beneficial post-surgery, especially for knee replacement, to aid in recovery.

What Types of Joint Replacement Surgeries are Available?

Joint replacement will vary depending on the joint involved and your surgeon’s preference. Common procedures include hip and knee replacement, with options for partial replacement or full joint replacement. Surgeons may choose the type of prosthesis based on experience and patient suitability.

How Long Does a Joint Replacement Typically Last?

Joint replacements can last for many years, with average survival rates around ten years. However, individual experiences may vary, and factors such as age and activity level can influence longevity.

Where Does Age Factor into Joint Replacement Surgery?

Age is an essential consideration in joint replacement surgery, but chronological age doesn't always correlate with physiological age. While younger individuals may require joint replacements earlier due to increased activity levels, older individuals can still benefit from surgery if deemed appropriate.

What Role do Patients Play in the Decision-Making Process for Joint Replacement Surgery?

Deciding on surgery is a big decision so it’s important that patients feel informed. Ask questions of your surgeon to understand the procedure and potential risks. You should trust your surgeon’s expertise. Relying too much on self-research can lead to confusion.

What Happens During the Pre-assessment Process Before Surgery?

Pre-assessment involves medical checks to ensure patients are ready for surgery. This includes reviewing medical history, conducting blood tests, and assessing cardiac health. Additional tests may be necessary based on individual circumstances.

What Can Patients Expect in Terms of Recovery Post-surgery?

Recovery varies depending on the type of surgery and individual factors. While some individuals may resume light activities within a few days, others may require weeks or months for full recovery. Physiotherapy may be recommended to aid in rehabilitation.

Are Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy Necessary After Joint Replacement Surgery?

While not always mandatory, physiotherapy is often recommended post-surgery to aid in rehabilitation and ensure optimal recovery. Occupational therapy may also be beneficial for making necessary adjustments in the home environment.

What Are the Other Procedures Available for Arthritis Management Other Than Hip and Knee Replacement?

While hip and knee replacements are common, other joints like shoulders and ankles can also be replaced. Additionally, procedures like osteotomy may be considered for certain cases, especially in younger people.

What Advice Would You Give to Someone Facing Surgery for Arthritis?

Maintain a balance between being informed and trusting your surgeon's expertise. Focus on staying physically fit and mentally prepared for the journey ahead. Understand that while surgery may seem daunting, it can significantly improve quality of life and mobility.

If you are considering surgery or other treatment options for arthritis, talk to your GP and ask for a referral to see a UPMC consultant. UPMC offers non-surgical and surgical options at our locations in Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Waterford, Tipperary, Limerick, Mayo, and Cork.

Osteoarthritis Rehabilitation classes are conducted across our network of Sports Medicine Clinics and our Institute for Health. Osteoarthritis rehabilitation can often help reduce pain and improve function. Our individualised classes are overseen by a UPMC consultant and designed by our physiotherapy team to highlight the benefits of strength training, aerobic fitness, and flexibility in maintaining healthy joints.

Learn more about UPMC services for diagnosing and treating arthritis: