Two Things to Watch if You’re Having a Joint Replacement

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Joint replacement patients who avoid smoking and curtail alcohol consumption before surgery will have a better outcome than those who don't. Being a current smoker and misusing alcohol significantly increases the risk of complications for people electing to have joint replacement surgery.Joint replacement patients who avoid smoking and curtail alcohol consumption before surgery will have a better outcome than those who don’t. This finding comes from brand new research revealed at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. These are things obviously completely in our control, and are worth doing to avoid post-surgery complications. And, in this case, the surgery is total hip or knee replacement.

First to smoking. Researchers found that smoking cigarettes raises patient risks. A study examined whether current or prior tobacco use had an effect on post-operative recovery in people undergoing joint replacement.

It found that current smokers had 41% higher odds of site infections than those who had never smoked before. Current smokers also had significantly higher odds of pneumonia (53%), stroke (161%) and death within one year (63%), compared to “never-smokers”. As well, prior smokers were at higher odds of stroke (114%), pneumonia (34%), urinary tract infection (26%), and pulmonary complications (30%), compared with never-smokers.

This hails from data on 33,336 patients who had elective joint replacement procedures between 2001 and 2008. Patients were on average 64 years old, and 95% were male. Of them, 57% never smoked, 19% were prior smokers (who had quit at least a year before surgery), and 24% were current smokers.

The risk of complications in joint replacement patients who smoke is quite significant. The researchers believe that if someone is looking for a good reason to quit, this is it. If you are deciding to get a joint replacement and improve your life, quitting smoking is a very wise and clinically important first step.

Next to alcohol. In one study, researchers assessed post-surgical complication rates among 185 people who had consumed alcohol in the past year. They found that patients who reported the highest amount of alcohol consumption (considered “alcohol misuse”) were most likely to experience complications. Each extra point in the scale of alcohol use corresponded with a 29% increase in the expected number of complications.

Alcohol misuse can have major repercussions in those electing to have joint replacement surgery. Moderate alcohol use is considered one or fewer a day for women and two or fewer drinks per day for men. Misuse is considered drinking more than four times a week, having more than nine drinks in a typical day, or routinely having more than six drinks a day.

Protect yourself from serious complications by managing your lifestyle before considering such a major surgery.