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Osteoarthritis Health Center

Surgery for Osteoarthritis Joint Pain

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Arthroscopy for Joint Pain continued...

Benefits and Risks of Arthroscopy

Compared with more invasive forms of joint surgery, arthroscopy offers important benefits, including:

  • Reduced surgery time
  • Less tissue damage and blood loss
  • Less pain after surgery
  • Lower risk of complications

Arthroscopic joint surgery carries few risks, mainly those associated with any type of surgery. The risks you should discuss with your surgeon include:

  • A reaction to anesthesia
  • Bleeding inside the joint, or a blood clot
  • Blood vessel or nerve damage
  • Damage to cartilage, muscles, ligaments, or tendons
  • Infection

What Happens During Arthroscopic Joint Surgery

Arthroscopic joint surgery may take as little as an hour to complete. The surgeon starts by making a small incision in the joint area, inserting the arthroscope, and filling the joint with saline solution to enlarge the joint and to get a better view. Moving the scope and watching a magnified view of the joint on the monitor, the surgeon may make additional repairs through additional small incisions.

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."

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