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Osteoarthritis Surgery: The Next Stage

If you have severe joint damage, severe pain, or very limited motion, you may need surgery for your osteoarthritis. These procedures can relieve pain and allow for better mobility.

  • Arthroscopic surgery: This is a common outpatient procedure for knees and shoulders. It allows surgeons to repair the surfaces of damaged joints -- removing loose cartilage, repairing cartilage tears, and smoothing bone surfaces.
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA): Electrical current is used to heat a small area of nerve tissue, which decreases pain signals from that tissue. The degree of pain relief varies with this procedure. But this surgery has proven helpful in relieving OA pain from joint damage.
  • Joint replacement surgery: When nothing else has worked, damaged joints can be replaced with artificial joints. Hips and knees are most commonly replaced, but artificial joints are now available for shoulders, fingers, elbows, and back joints.
  • Osteotomy: When someone is too young for joint replacement, this procedure can increase stability in knees or hip joints. It involves cutting bone to redistribute weight on a joint and make it more stable.
  • Joint fusion: Also called arthrodesis, this surgery involves fusing two bones on each end of a joint -- thus getting rid of the joint itself. It is used when joints are severely damaged and causing significant pain. It is also done when joint replacement is not effective, as with the ankle.Though a fused joint is not flexible, it is more stable, can bear weight better, and will no longer cause pain due to osteoarthritis.