by Matthew Harris MD, MBA
Here in the United States, we tend to practice Reactive Medicine. What this means is that you can spend a lifetime with a deformity or chronic injury, but little advice and few solutions are offered to you while it is still early enough to act, address the problem, such as restoring your alignment or trying to regenerate your cartilage. Instead, there are thousands of Orthopedists who are more than happy to tell you that you need a Joint Replacement which is "guaranteed" to take away your pain. "A Joint Replacement?! At such a young age?! Doc, you're joking, right?!"
I hope that I am not the only one who cringes at that idea. Let's face it, joint replacements are amazing surgeries that do a fantastic job of taking away pain from arthritis...but they are not without risk, and many complications. Worse of all, it's a one-way road that you never, ever come back from. Something that ought to be a LAST RESORT. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of patients, they are offered this as their First or "Only" Resort. There is no such thing as getting a joint replacement, having it go horribly wrong, and then asking to have your own cartilage and bone put back in and pretending that it never happened. The vast majority of joint replacements are relatively easy surgeries, and a surgeon may perform 10 - 15 of them in a single day. You become just another product on an assembly line. There are between 25 and 30 million people in the United States, living with arthritis. It's time that we start treating it sooner, and more effectively.
Those interested should read this article that demonstrated how far too many people are recommended to undergo a joint replacement procedure by their surgeon, without providing ample alternative treatments that are safer, more conservative, and far more preferable. How many of you think that the patients with the hip replacements pictured below are still running or playing tennis with all of the extra scar and bone formation in these hips? These patients could barely move their hips at all, let alone do so and remain active. Joint replacement surgery is not a risk-free benign procedure, and it ought to remain the very last stop on the arthritis train.
Here at the JPLRC, we intentionally do NOT perform joint replacements. By choosing not to perform joint replacement surgeries, we are thereby committed to offer every possible chance to our patients, to treat their pain and symptoms by restoring alignment, regenerating cartilage, and addressing any associated injuries or problems that require it for the sake of maintaining their own native joint for as long as possible. Consider that joint replacements, even in the best of circumstances last only 15 years or so. That's it. If you have your first joint replacement at age 50, you're bound to have it revised by 65, and if you live to be 80, yet again. But what if it goes bad when you're 85 or even 90? A major revision surgery is not the type of surgery that you want to risk at that age. So are you then left to hobble around in agony for your remaining years?
We have a different philosophy that is the premise of Joint Preservation. Let's do everything we can now to keep your "own parts" that, not coincidentally, are good enough to work for 50, 60, even 70 years (which is far better than the latest and greatest technology in joint replacement parts, which can still only offer 15 years), and do "tune-ups and alignments." Let's get the most mileage that we can out of your own body! If we can get you to 65 instead of 50 before you need your first joint replacement, well guess what? Now, that first joint replacement is going to last you until you're 80, and you'll only need to worry about having it revised once (assuming you can make it to 95!). It's safer, it's more sensible, and it's your own body, so those extra 15 years of keeping your own joint also includes that added benefits of not having to worry that your joint replacement will get infected, that you have to take antibiotics just for going to the dentist, that the parts will wear out and be recalled by the FDA, that the parts will get loose, or that you'll have to avoid high-impact or very active lifestyles.
This isn't just Preventive Medicine, it's Intelligent Medicine and we need to practice more of it here in the United States. Joint replacement companies don't like this of course, because it means less revenue. They spend millions of dollars on television commercials and magazine ads for a reason. Joint replacement centers make lots and lots of money too. At JPLRC, we operate not on the principle of making money, but instead, by answering the very simple question that every surgeon and patient ought to ask themselves... "What is best for the patient?"
We have many treatment options that are designed to delay and even reverse the onset of Early Arthritis here at the JPLRC. Dr. Harris specializes in the treatment of conditions such as Meniscal Injury, Hip Dysplasia, Deformity, Fracture, Osteomyelitis, SCFE, Perthes, FAI, Limb Length Discrepancy and so on. Each of these conditions is known to predispose to the development of Early Arthritis. Our entire philosophy and practice is built around addressing these known causes as early as possible. In the event that the Arthritis may be in the middle stages, there are more advanced surgical options that we can employ such as Hip Arthroscopy, Surgical Hip Dislocation, High Tibial Osteotomy, Femoral Osteotomy, and complex Pelvic Osteotomy. There are also indications for Stem Cell Therapy and PRP injections for various stages and forms of arthritis as well. Please feel free to click the links to any of the above conditions and techniques to learn more about them.