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Osteoarthritis Health Center

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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:


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. In some people, arthroscopy may relieve pain or locking caused by loose cartilage or bone fragments.5
  • 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.

Small joint surgerySmall joint surgery. Surgery is more common on the larger joints, such as the hip and the knee. But if pain in the small joints of the hands or feet is so bad that the person can't use those joints, surgery may help.

A newer procedure for arthritis of the knee uses a small cup shaped like a "C." It's placed in the joint space of the inner knee and acts as a cushion for the joint. It may help delay surgery to replace the knee.

What to think about


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 09, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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