When Joint Replacement Makes Sense for Arthritis


Arthritis is an oftentimes painful condition that affects the joints of more than 50 million adults, a small percentage of whom will eventually end up undergoing orthopedic surgery.  Fortunately, first-line treatments for arthritis pain are often effective. However, there are cases in which orthopedic surgery may be needed when other treatments have been exhausted.

First-line methods to treat arthritis pain include physical therapy for arthritis and cortisone shots or gel injections. Again, these are often very effective for relieving pain and reducing complications.

When surgery is needed, surgical procedures for arthritis can include joint replacement of the hip, knee or other joints in the body.

Surgical options for arthritis

According to the Arthritis Foundation, common surgeries for arthritis include:

  • Athroplasty
  • Joint resurfacing
  • Osteotomy
  • Synovectomy
  • Arthrodesis or fusion
  • Total joint replacement (TJR) or total joint arthroplasty
  • Minimally invasive TJR
  • Joint revision

A fellowship-trained orthopedic doctor can determine the appropriate treatment or type of joint surgery needed for your specific case of arthritis. Factors that will affect the type of procedure needed for your situation are the arthritic condition you have, which joints in your body are affected, your age and more. There are more than 100 types of arthritis. Common types include: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia.

What is joint replacement?

Joint replacement may sound like a serious procedure — and indeed it should only be undertaken by a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon after other less invasive treatment options have been tried. However, if you do need to take the next treatment step, you may be glad to know that on an increasingly regular basis, partial and total joint replacement surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure. That means no long hospital stays — you’ll likely be able to go home the same day as you receive a new replacement joint.

But what exactly is joint replacement surgery? “Joint replacement surgery removes damaged or diseased parts of a joint and replaces them with new, man-made parts,” according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. “Hips and knees are replaced most often. Other joints that can be replaced include the shoulders, fingers, ankles, and elbows.”

Joint replacement can cut down on your arthritis pain and allow you to move and feel better. It can help restore your range of motion and generally improve your quality of life.

Which patients should get joint replacement surgery?

According to a 2013 study by the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism found that certain patients are likely to have better outcome following joint replacement surgery. The following factors make it more likely that a patient will benefit:

  • General good health
  • High levels of arthritis pain
  • Only one affected knee or hip, if these are the areas affected
  • A type of arthritis that is not inflammatory (such as osteoarthritis)

Noninflammatory types of arthritis — like osteoarthritis — can range in severity, often involves stiffness in the mornings that lasts for about an hour and is aggravated by activity, according to the journal American Family Physician. Inflammatory arthritis generally often involves joints that are warm and swollen joints and morning stiffness may last a longer time.

Fortunately, the majority of arthritis patients never end up needing joint replacement or any other type of surgery. Talk to an orthopedic expert about your arthritis pain and other symptoms.

Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants has orthopedic specialists, including fellowship-trained surgeons, physical therapists and pain management specialists, who can help properly diagnose and treat any arthritis condition.