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Osteoarthritis Health Center

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Surgery for Osteoarthritis Joint Pain

Osteotomy continued...

You may have a lot of pain at first. You'll take pain medicine, either as pills or by IV. At home, take your pain medication as directed.

After surgery, it’s important to keep the muscles active, so your doctor will give you instructions on how you can move. As soon as possible, even while you are still in bed recovering, you should begin to bend your knee and then extend your leg to keep it from stiffening.

Once your surgery wound closes (in about six days), you may be fitted with a knee brace, or the surgeon may put your knee in a cast for four to six weeks. Most people can start physical therapy six to eight weeks after the surgery.

Joint Fusion (Arthrodesis)

What happens: Like osteotomy, joint fusion surgery may be done when joint replacement isn't an option. The osteoarthritis-involved bones are fused so they grow together to form one bone. Although the fused joint is not flexible, it's very stable. Arthrodesis is done to relieve pain in the spine and smaller joints -- such as the ankles, wrists, fingers, and thumbs.

During joint fusion surgery, the surgeon makes a cut over the joint affected by osteoarthritis then exposes it by carefully moving aside muscles or ligaments. Next, she roughens the bones of the joint and lays pieces of donor bone or your own bone over the joint to start the fusion process.


  • Osteoarthritis pain relief
  • A straightened and stabilized joint


  • There’s a chance of nerve or artery damage.
  • If the bones don’t fuse, you may need more surgery.

Recovery: During healing, the fused joint is kept in place with a cast, pins, screws, or plates. You may be hospitalized for one to four days and wear your joint support for a while after you go home.

It’s normal to have some pain, tenderness, and stiffness after surgery.

After joint fusion surgery, you'll need to adjust to moving and using the limb without bending it. This can make it harder to do some familiar things, like climbing stairs or getting into a small car. Some people walk differently after this surgery because of the differences that need to be adjusted to.

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