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Osteoarthritis Health Center

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Surgery for Osteoarthritis Joint Pain

Arthroscopy for Joint Pain continued...

At the end of surgery, the arthroscope and any other surgical tools are removed and the joint flushed with saline again. Local anesthetics may be injected into the joint to reduce pain.

When you're ready to return home, your surgeon may provide medication to ease pain and reduce inflammation.

Recovery From Arthroscopic Joint Surgery

For a few days after arthroscopic joint surgery, follow your surgeon's instructions to care for the joint. These may include wrapping and icing it, resting it to help with healing, and elevating it to help reduce pain and swelling. You may need crutches, a sling, or splints to support it when you move about. Your surgeon may suggest physical therapy.

After arthroscopy, most people go back to their normal daily routine within days. It may take a few weeks before the joint recovers fully. 

Total Joint Replacement (Arthroplasty) for Joint Pain

Joint replacement can help relieve osteoarthritis pain so you can move and feel better. Knees and hips are replaced most often. Shoulders, elbows, fingers, ankles, and other joints can also be done, but the results are not as reliable.

For the knee, total joint replacement is typically recommended when osteoarthritis has progressed to such a severe point that there is total loss of cartilage, with the femur and tibia grinding against each other in a condition known as "bone-on-bone."

Here are some signs that joint replacement may be needed:

  • Osteoarthritis joint pain wakes you from sleep, so it's hard to get a good night's rest.
  • No matter how many medications you try, the pain doesn't stop.
  • The pain makes you avoid outings or vacations you would enjoy.
  • Even simple activities around the house are painful, like getting out of a chair or going upstairs.
  • Other normal activities of daily living are difficult due to pain or loss of mobility in the joint.

Benefits and Risks of Total Joint Replacement

More than 90% of people who have joint replacement have satisfactory outcomes. Improvements include:

  • Relief of joint pain when other options haven't worked
  • Better, easier joint movement
  • Realignment of deformed joints, improving their function and appearance

Of course, there are risks with any surgery. Your risk will depend on the type of joint replacement, as well as your:

  • General health
  • Age
  • Nutritional state
  • Bone quality and any bony deformities
  • Blood clots

Discuss your particular risks with your surgeon.

New joints typically last between 10 and 15 years. When they wear out, the joint can be replaced, or a procedure called "revision joint surgery" may be done. In this surgery, special metal and plastic parts are used to replace the joint and any damaged bone.

Some medical conditions can make joint replacement unsuitable including being severely overweight (it may cause the joint to wear out sooner). Besides obesity, these may include:

  • Severe mental, emotional, or neurologic disorders
  • Advanced osteoporosis or another chronic medical condition
  • Conditions that make anesthesia risky, such as heart, lung, and kidney problems and previous blood clots.

WebMD Medical Reference

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