Understanding total joint replacement surgery

Dr. Christopher Cannon tells you what to expect.

April 9, 2020


According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, more than 1 million Americans have hip or knee replacement surgery each year. This is known as total joint replacement.

The procedure involves removing or replacing parts of an arthritic or damaged joint with an artificial part called a prosthesis. 



Expert insights


Dr. Christopher Cannon, Polyclinic orthopedic surgeon, talked about total joint replacement with IRG Health Talk host Shannon O’Kelly. Topics included why surgeons are doing this procedure in younger patients, the decision to get surgery and recovery time.

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Narrator: Welcome to IRG’s sports injury update. I’m with Shannon O’Kelly, physical therapist and president of IRG Physical and Hand Therapy and our guest, Dr. Chris Cannon, orthopedic surgeon at The Polyclinic in Northgate and Downtown Seattle. 

Shannon O’Kelley: Dr. Cannon welcome. You’re a total joint surgeon. And in today’s world, we’re doing total joints much earlier. What's the deal with that?

Dr. Christopher Cannon: One is that the technology has advanced, so they last longer so we are not so apprehensive about doing them at a younger age and second I think people are less willing to give up their activities. People want to stay active later in life and having a functional hip or knee is an important part of that. 

Shannon O’Kelley: How do you make that decision to do that surgery?

Dr. Christopher Cannon: Basically it comes down to having bone on bone arthritis or close bone on bone arthritis. And not improving with reasonable conservative treatment. 

Shannon O’Kelley: And after a total hip or a total knee patients really get back to fairly normal activity, don’t they?

Dr. Christopher Cannon: People can almost go back to everything they were doing. I personally am not a huge fan of running or running sports, you know, soccer and basketball, but most things- hiking, biking, swimming are all fair game. 

Shannon O’Kelley: And what is that time frame, normally?

Dr. Christopher Cannon: Light activities probably by a month, stationary bike, elliptical trainer, things like that. Back to full activities, 3 months or so is a reasonable time frame. 

Shannon O’Kelley: If you want more information regarding total joints, contact Dr. Cannon at polyclinic.com.


What are the benefits of this surgery?

Replacing a joint can ease pain or help patients move again. A physician will determine if you need surgery by reviewing X-ray images to see if your joint is damaged. 

Your doctor will also want to know if you feel pain when you walk, swim, bike or do other activities. A successful surgery will help you keep doing most activities. 

How long does it take to recover?

“You can expect to do light activity, such as a stationary bike and elliptical training, in about one month. Patients can return to full activity in about three months or so,” said Dr. Cannon.

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The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.