Arthritis surgery can be a life-changing option for patients who are suffering from the persistent pain and limited mobility associated with severe arthritis. The primary goal of these surgeries is to alleviate pain, improve joint function, and ultimately enhance the patient’s quality of life. There are several types of arthritis surgeries, ranging from joint replacement to less invasive arthroscopic procedures, and they are typically considered when more conservative treatments, such as physical therapy and medications, have proven insufficient in managing the symptoms.

The decision to undergo arthritis surgery is not one to be taken lightly, and careful consideration must be given to the potential risks and benefits involved. There can be a variety of preoperative factors that may influence the surgical decision-making process, such as overall health, age, and the type and severity of arthritis. In addition, there are numerous surgical procedures and techniques available, each with its own set of potential advantages and drawbacks. Therefore, thorough research and open dialogue with healthcare professionals are crucial elements in making informed decisions about arthritis surgery.

Key Takeaways

Types of Arthritis Surgery

Arthritis surgery can be a viable option for people who have not found relief from non-surgical treatments. There are several types of arthritis surgeries that cater to different joints and conditions. The most common types of arthritis surgery are joint replacement, arthroscopic surgery, joint fusion, and osteotomy.

Joint Replacement

Joint replacement surgery, or arthroplasty, involves removing a damaged joint and replacing it with an artificial one, commonly made from metal or plastic. The two most common joint replacements are knee replacement and hip replacement. In a total joint replacement (TJR), the entire joint is replaced, whereas, in a partial joint replacement, only part of the joint is replaced. Reverberantly, a joint revision surgery may be required if the artificial joint wears out or causes problems.

Minimally invasive TJR is a relatively new technique that aims to reduce tissue damage and shorten recovery time. In this technique, smaller incisions are made, and specific instruments are used to complete the surgery.

Arthroscopic Surgery

Arthroscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that makes use of a small camera called an arthroscope. Through small incisions in the skin, the arthroscope is inserted into the joint, allowing the surgeon to view and diagnose joint issues. Arthroscopic surgery can be used to perform a synovectomy (removal of inflamed tissue in the joint), repair damaged cartilage, or remove loose fragments of bone or cartilage.

Joint Fusion

Joint fusion, also known as arthrodesis, is a surgical procedure in which two or more bones are permanently joined together to eliminate painful joint motion. This type of surgery is most commonly performed for arthritis affecting the wrist, fingers, and ankle joints. During joint fusion, the damaged cartilage is removed, and the bones are held together with screws, plates, or rods until they fuse together.


Osteotomy involves cutting and reshaping a bone to improve joint alignment and redistribute weight across the joint. This surgery is often performed for patients with arthritis in the knee or hip, especially if the damage is limited to only one side of the joint. By improving alignment, osteotomy can help relieve pain and delay the need for joint replacement surgery.

The choice of arthritis surgery depends on several factors, including the severity and location of arthritis, age, and overall health. A consultation with a qualified orthopedic surgeon can help patients determine the most suitable surgical option for their specific condition.

Preoperative Considerations

Evaluating Joint Damage

Before considering arthritis surgery, it’s essential to evaluate the extent of joint damage. This involves a thorough examination of the affected joints, taking into account factors such as age, mobility, and pain levels. Imaging studies, like X-rays, are crucial for assessing joint damage in patients with arthritis, regardless of the type (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or inflammatory arthritis). The results help a surgeon determine the severity of joint damage and recommend the appropriate surgical intervention.

Determining the Right Surgery

There are various types of arthritis surgeries, including total joint replacements (knee, hip, and shoulder), as well as more conservative procedures. The choice depends on the patient’s unique situation and the degree of joint damage. An orthopedic surgeon will take into account several factors when determining the most suitable surgery:

Preparing for Surgery

Once the appropriate surgery has been determined, patients must prepare for the procedure, both physically and mentally. Here are a few key steps to take during the preoperative phase:

  • Physical therapy: Strengthening the muscles around the affected joint through preoperative physical therapy can improve post-surgery outcomes.
  • Medical clearance: Patients may need to undergo a series of tests and consultations with their primary care doctor or specialists to ensure they are in optimal health for surgery.
  • Medication management: Some medications, such as blood thinners and anti-inflammatory drugs, may need to be adjusted or stopped before surgery to minimize potential complications.
  • Lifestyle modifications: Healthy habits like proper nutrition, weight management, and smoking cessation can help improve the overall success of the surgery.

By following these preoperative considerations, patients can increase the likelihood of a successful arthritis surgery and improve their quality of life.

Surgical Procedures and Techniques

Anesthesia and Incisions

During arthritis surgery, anesthesia is administered to ensure patient comfort and safety. The choice of anesthesia may include local, regional, or general anesthesia, depending on factors such as the patient’s overall health and the surgery type. Preoperative medications are also administered to control pain and minimize inflammation.

Surgeons create incisions to access the affected joint. The size and location of incisions depend on the surgery type, joint location, and surgeon’s preference. In some cases, small incisions are made for minimally invasive techniques, while larger incisions are required for open surgery.

Implanting Artificial Joints

One common procedure to address arthritis is joint replacement, which involves removing damaged joint surfaces and implanting artificial joints made of durable materials such as metal, ceramic, and plastic. These implants are designed to mimic the natural joint movement, thus improving mobility and function. After implantation, the incisions are closed, and the healing process begins.

Artificial joints help to restore the range of motion and strength in the affected joint. However, they may need to be adjusted or replaced over time as they wear out or become less effective.

Minimally Invasive Options

Minimally invasive options, such as arthroscopic surgery, are becoming increasingly popular due to their potential to reduce recovery time and minimize complications. Arthroscopic surgery involves the use of a tiny camera known as an arthroscope, allowing surgeons to visualize the joint and perform necessary repairs through small incisions.

Common minimally invasive procedures include:

  • Arthroscopic debridement: Removal of loose debris, damaged tissues, and bone spurs to alleviate pain and improve joint function.
  • Arthroscopic meniscectomy: Removal of a damaged meniscus in the knee to restore stability and reduce pain.
  • Arthroscopic osteotomy: Realignment of bone to redistribute weight on the joint, possibly delaying the need for joint replacement.

It is essential to note that minimally invasive options may not be suitable for all patients and could depend on factors such as age, overall health, and the severity of arthritis. In some cases, open surgery may still be necessary to achieve the desired results.

Postoperative Recovery and Rehabilitation

After arthritis surgery, it’s essential to prioritize postoperative recovery and rehabilitation to restore joint function and improve overall mobility. This section focuses on managing pain and swelling, physical and occupational therapy, and returning to activities.

Managing Pain and Swelling

Post-surgery, it’s common to experience pain and swelling around the joint. To manage these symptoms, consider the following:

  • Rest: Ensure that you give your body enough time to heal, especially in the initial stages of recovery.
  • Ice: Applying ice to the affected area may help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
  • Compression: Gentle compression using elastic bandages can help control swelling and provide support to the joints.
  • Medication: Pain-relief medications, as prescribed by your medical professional, will help manage pain and discomfort. If blood thinners are recommended, ensure adherence to your doctor’s advice to prevent complications.
  • Elevation: Elevate the operated joint to decrease swelling and improve blood circulation.

Physical and Occupational Therapy

Incorporating physical and occupational therapy into your recovery plan is essential for regaining mobility, function, and flexibility after surgery. These therapies will involve:

  • Exercises: Gradually incorporating appropriate exercises designed to strengthen the joint and surrounding muscles, as advised by your therapist.
  • Mobility aids: Utilizing crutches or a walker, as needed, to assist with movement while maintaining weight-bearing restrictions set by your surgeon.
  • Gripping: Regaining the ability to grip objects and perform activities, such as dressing and grooming, through occupational therapy.
  • Progression tracking: Monitoring improvement and progression in joint function and mobility.

Returning to Activities

Resuming typical activities after arthritis surgery requires patience and adherence to rehabilitation guidelines. Some key aspects for returning to activities include:

  • Activity levels: Gradually increase activity levels per your therapist’s advice, ensuring that you do not overexert or risk injury to healing joints.
  • Rest intervals: Plan regular rest intervals throughout the day to avoid excessive stress on the recovering joint.
  • Consultation: Regularly consult with your healthcare team to monitor recovery progress and adjust your rehabilitation plan accordingly.

Remember, a well-planned and executed postoperative recovery and rehabilitation program is essential for restoring joint function, mobility, and overall quality of life after arthritis surgery.

Potential Risks and Complications

Arthritis surgery, like any surgical procedure, carries some potential risks and complications. In this section, we will discuss the risks associated with joint surgery, focusing on three main complications: infection, blood clots, and implant failure.


Infections can occur after arthritis joint surgery, and patients with rheumatoid arthritis may be at increased risk due to their weakened immune systems. A study has found that surgical site infections are more common in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms of an infection may include redness, swelling, and tenderness around the surgical site. To minimize the risk of infection, it is crucial to follow your surgeon’s postoperative care instructions, which typically include keeping the wound clean and avoiding activities that could introduce bacteria.

Blood Clots

Blood clots are another potential complication of arthritis surgery. Patients undergoing joint replacement procedures may be at risk for developing blood clots, particularly in the veins of the leg or pelvis, which can cause serious health issues if they travel to the lungs. A study has identified several traditional risk factors for cardiac complications in noncardiac surgery also apply to joint arthroplasty. To reduce the risk of blood clots, surgeons may recommend wearing compression stockings or taking medications like blood thinners after surgery.

Implant Failure

Arthritis surgery often involves the use of artificial joints to replace damaged ones. However, these implants can sometimes fail, leading to complications such as loosening, wear, or breakage. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis may have an increased risk of fracture and dislocation, as mentioned in a study. Implant failure may require further surgery to repair or replace the affected joint. It is essential to follow your surgeon’s recommendations for activity restrictions and rehabilitation to minimize the risk of implant failure.

By being aware of these risks and complications, you can take the necessary precautions and make informed decisions about your health and arthritis surgery.

Managing Arthritis Non-Surgically

There are several ways to manage arthritis non-surgically, often focusing on alleviating joint pain and stiffness while improving overall function. In this section, we will discuss two main non-surgical approaches: Medications and Injections, and Lifestyle Changes.

Medications and Injections

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) work to reduce inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. These medications are usually available over-the-counter and can be taken orally or applied topically to the affected area. Common NSAIDs include ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. However, long-term use of NSAIDs may have side effects, so it is essential to follow your doctor’s recommendations.

Corticosteroid Injections can offer targeted relief for arthritis pain. Cortisone, a powerful anti-inflammatory medication, is injected directly into the affected joint. This treatment can provide temporary pain relief and reduce inflammation in the joint. However, the long-term use of cortisone injections may worsen joint damage, and their effect may diminish with repeated use.

Lifestyle Changes

Exercise is a crucial component of managing arthritis non-surgically. Regular physical activity can help reduce pain, increase flexibility and mobility, strengthen muscles, and combat the stiffness associated with arthritis. Incorporate low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, and yoga into your daily routine. Consult with a physical therapist or healthcare professional for guidance on exercise plans tailored to your specific needs.

Diet plays a vital role in overall health and well-being. For those with arthritis, maintaining a balanced diet can help manage inflammation and promote joint health. Incorporate anti-inflammatory foods such as fish, nuts, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables into your meals, and avoid processed and high-fat foods. A healthy diet can also help maintain a healthy body weight, reducing extra strain on already painful joints.

In conclusion, a combination of appropriate medications, injections, and lifestyle changes can make a notable impact on arthritis management without resorting to surgery. Discuss the best approach with your healthcare provider, and remember that consistency and adherence to prescribed plans are essential to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Costs and Insurance Coverage

Cost of Arthritis Surgery

The cost of arthritis surgery varies depending on the type of procedure, the location of the surgery, and the patient’s health. Generally, joint replacement surgeries like hip and knee replacement are among the most common and well-known procedures. Arthroscopy, a less invasive surgery used to diagnose and treat joint conditions, is another option for some patients.

  • Joint replacement: The cost for a joint replacement surgery can range significantly. The total cost generally includes hospital fees, the surgeon’s fee, and other medical expenses during the procedure. It is essential to consider additional costs such as follow-up visits, physical therapy, and any necessary equipment for recovery (e.g., crutches, braces).

  • Arthroscopy: As a less invasive procedure, arthroscopy tends to be less expensive than joint replacement surgeries. However, costs can still vary significantly based on the same factors as joint replacement, such as hospital fees, the surgeon’s fee, and other medical expenses during the procedure.

Insurance Considerations

Insurance coverage for arthritis surgery can vary greatly depending on the patient’s insurance plan and the specific procedure. It is crucial for patients to communicate with their insurance provider to determine coverage levels and out-of-pocket expenses. Some key points to consider include:

  • Pre-authorization: Before undergoing arthritis surgery, it is essential to ensure that the procedure has been pre-authorized by the insurance company. This will help verify coverage and prevent any unexpected financial surprises.

  • Deductibles and co-pays: Patients should be aware of any deductibles or co-pays associated with their insurance plan, as these costs will typically be the patient’s responsibility.

  • In-network providers: To maximize insurance coverage and minimize out-of-pocket costs, patients should choose a surgeon and hospital that are in-network with their insurance plan.

By considering these factors and carefully evaluating the costs and insurance coverage, patients can better prepare themselves financially for arthritis surgery and make more informed decisions about their healthcare options.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can arthritis be removed from the spine?

Arthritis in the spine can be managed, but not completely removed. Treatments include conservative methods like medication, physical therapy, and exercise. In severe cases, spinal fusion surgery may be considered to relieve pain and reduce the risk of further spine complications.

What is the success rate of hand surgery for arthritis?

The success rate of hand surgery for arthritis varies depending on factors like individual health, severity of arthritis, and the type of surgery performed. Some common hand surgeries for arthritis include joint fusion, joint replacement, and carpal tunnel release. According to a study, functional outcomes are generally positive, but vary depending on the specific procedure and patient’s circumstances.

Is there a surgery for arthritis in fingers?

Yes, several surgical procedures can be performed to treat arthritis in fingers. These include joint fusion, joint replacement, and tendon repair or realignment. The choice of surgery depends on factors such as severity of arthritis, patient’s age, and overall health condition. Consultation with a hand surgeon is necessary to determine the most appropriate treatment.

What is the recovery time for arthritis surgery?

Recovery time varies depending on the type of arthritis surgery and the individual’s health. In general, it may take between several weeks to a few months for full recovery. Physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises are often recommended to improve strength, range of motion, and function after surgery.

How successful is knee arthritis surgery?

Knee arthritis surgery, such as total knee replacement, has a high success rate in terms of reducing pain and improving functionality. According to a study, clinical outcomes are generally positive for patients undergoing joint replacement surgery. However, individual results may vary based on factors like age, overall health, and adherence to postoperative care.

Can arthritis be removed from the shoulder?

Arthritis in the shoulder can be treated but not completely removed. Non-surgical treatments like medication, physical therapy, and activity modification are often recommended first. In more severe cases, shoulder replacement surgery may be considered. This procedure involves replacing damaged parts of the shoulder joint with artificial components to improve function and reduce pain.