In most cases, people can manage their
osteoarthritis symptoms with medicine and lifestyle
changes. But surgery may be an option
- You have very bad pain.
- You have lost a lot
- You have tried medicine and
other treatments, but they haven't helped.
- Your overall health is
One Man's Story:
"I wasn't sure about having surgery
since I was so young. I had heard that an artificial hip could give out in 10
to 20 years ... But when the medicine I was taking stopped working, I figured
I had gone as far as I could go with this, and decided to go ahead with the
surgery ... It's a strange feeling to be able to walk without a limp and to
walk up and down stairs without grabbing on to the railing."—Steve
Read more about Steve and how he learned to cope with arthritis.
Types of surgery for arthritis
- Arthrodesis. This joins (fuses)
two bones in a damaged joint so that the joint
won't bend. Doctors may use it to treat
arthritis of the spine, ankles, hands, and feet. In rare
cases, it's used to treat the knees and hips.
- Arthroscopy can help
relieve pain for a short time and allow the joints to move better. In some
cases, the relief lasts a long time.
Arthroscopy may help delay surgery to replace the
joint that hurts. But it doesn't seem to help
the arthritis itself.7 It may work best for people who
have pain or a hard time moving when their joints become
"locked" or stuck because of loose
cartilage or bone fragments.
- Hip resurfacing surgery. This is most often done in younger, more active people
who have pain and disability caused by a badly
- Joint replacement. This is done when other treatments haven't worked
and damage to the joint can be seen on X-rays.
It involves surgery to replace the ends of bones in a damaged joint.
The surgery creates new joint surfaces.
- Osteotomy. This is done to correct certain
defects in the hip and knee. In most cases, it's done in active people younger
than 60 who have mild arthritis and want to delay surgery to replace their hip
- Small joint surgery.
This is used if pain in the joints of
the hands or feet is so bad that a person can't use those joints. In
some cases, doctors will replace joints in the toe. But this is rarely done in
young, active people.
A newer procedure for arthritis of the knee
uses a small cup shaped like a "C." It's placed in the joint space of the inner
knee and acts as a cushion for the joint. It may help delay surgery to replace
What to think about
Before deciding to have surgery
If you're in poor health or have certain health problems, you may not be able to have surgery. Your doctor can help you decide if surgery is right for you.
Here are some things to think about if you're
thinking about surgery:
- After surgery, most people are
able to go back to doing their daily tasks and sports with less pain.
- You will need several months of physical therapy to
get the best use of your joint.
joints typically last 10 to 20 years. You may need
another surgery if the new joint
For help deciding whether to have joint replacement
- Arthritis: Should I Have Hip Replacement Surgery?
- Arthritis: Should I Have Knee Replacement Surgery?
- Arthritis: Should I Have Shoulder Replacement Surgery?
If you decide to have surgery
In the days or weeks before your surgery, talk to your doctor about what you need to do to get ready for your return home. For example, you may need to arrange for someone to drive you home and to help
you after your surgery. Or you may need to make changes to your home, such as removing small rugs, to help you move around.
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Stanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology
April 8, 2011
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