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Osteoarthritis - Surgery

In most cases, people can manage their osteoarthritis symptoms with medicine and lifestyle changes. But surgery may be an option if:

  • You have very bad pain.
  • You have lost a lot of cartilage.
  • You have tried medicine and other treatments, but they haven't helped.
  • Your overall health is good.

One Man's Story:

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Steve, 55

"I wasn't sure about having surgery since I was so young. I had heard that an artificial hip could give out in 10 to 20 years ... But when the medicine I was taking stopped working, I figured I had gone as far as I could go with this, and decided to go ahead with the surgery ... It's a strange feeling to be able to walk without a limp and to walk up and down stairs without grabbing on to the railing."—Steve

Read more about Steve and how he learned to cope with arthritis.

Surgery choices

Types of surgery for arthritis include:

  • ArthrodesisArthrodesis. This joins (fuses) two bones in a damaged joint so that the joint won't bend. Doctors may use it to treat arthritis of the spine, ankles, hands, and feet. In rare cases, it's used to treat the knees and hips.
  • ArthroscopyArthroscopy. This may be used to smooth a rough joint surface or remove loose cartilage or bone fragments. In some people it may help relieve pain for a short time and allow the joint to move better.
  • Hip resurfacing surgeryHip resurfacing surgery. This is most often done in younger, more active people who have pain and disability caused by a badly damaged hip.
  • Joint replacement. This is done when other treatments haven't worked and damage to the joint can be seen on X-rays. It involves surgery to replace the ends of bones in a damaged joint. The surgery creates new joint surfaces. The joints that are replaced most often are the hip, knee, and shoulder. But other joints such as the elbow and the ankle can also be replaced.
  • OsteotomyOsteotomy. This is done to correct certain defects in the hip and knee. In most cases, it's done in active people younger than 60 who have mild arthritis and want to delay surgery to replace a hip or knee.
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