Should You Delay a Joint Replacement?


You’re in pain, and you know you need joint replacement surgery. But insurance doesn’t cover what it used to, so you decide to postpone the surgery for as long as you can.

This is a decision more and more people struggle with in the Des Moines area and across the country. On one hand, your pain probably limits your day-to-day activities and diminishes your quality of life. But on the other hand, the financial impact is a very valid concern.

So what are your options? And what factors should you think about when making this decision? Consider the following.

Look into short-term options

Ask your physician about short-term options. In some cases, injections, oral meds and/or physical therapy may help you improve your quality of life temporarily.

Weigh the risks

You may be resigned to just living with the pain. But it’s important to know that postponing orthopaedic surgery—such as a joint replacement—could have long-term disadvantages.

Some of the risks involved with postponing joint replacement surgery include:

  • Increased deformity of the joint—complicating future surgery. As arthritis progresses, the joints can worsen as cartilage and bone wears away. This can make the surgery itself more complicated, so your surgeon may have to use special implants or perform a more extensive surgery.

  • More joint stiffness. The worse the joint becomes, the less it will move. When that happens, the surrounding tissue (muscle, ligaments, etc.) can contract and weaken. This causes increased stiffness and may make your recovery after surgery harder. In some cases, those muscles may never regain their full strength.

  • Problems with other joints. If one joint causes you pain, you’ll favor that joint—putting more pressure on other parts of your body. Over time, that can cause problems in new places, like your back or your other hip or knee.

Ask about new procedures

New surgical technology and techniques are constantly being developed. In some cases, these new approaches can lower the overall cost of a joint replacement.

Dr. Mark Fish, for instance, offers outpatient joint replacement surgery for qualified candidates (as determined by your physician), which could mean a significant savings.

Look into payment plans

More and more practices are now offering financing options to help patients pay for surgery. At Capital Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, we offer several financing options—from 12-month, no-interest financing to longer-term, fixed-rate loans. To learn more, contact us at 515-440-2676.

Work with your physician

The most important thing you can do if you’re deciding when (or if) to have joint replacement surgery—or any other procedure—is to work with your physician. Be honest about your financial concerns, and ask for his/her professional opinion on how long you can safely delay the procedure and what other options you should consider.

Our Locations

Choose your preferred location