Healthy joints are crucial to your body’s overall mobility. They allow you to freely move all body parts from the arms and legs to the fingers. Your skeletal system operates with two types of joints: ball and socket like the shoulder and hips and hinge joints like knees and elbows. When joints become damaged, they cause pain and stiffness. Fortunately, these damaged joints can be removed and replaced by a surgical procedure known as total joint replacement. The most common are hip and knee replacements but the surgery can also be used on other joints such as shoulders and elbows.
Who Needs Total Joint Surgery?
Joint pain is usually caused by damaged articular cartilage, the firm tissue at the end of the connecting bones in the joint. Bone breaks and fractures, overuse, and conditions like arthritis or aging can wear out the cartilage in your joints. This can make your normal everyday activities painful or even impossible. If you haven’t been able to control pain and stiffness with lifestyle changes like losing weight, medications, or physical therapy, you may be a candidate for total joint surgery. The procedure is done in a hospital and takes a few hours. An orthopedic surgeon replaces the damaged joint with prosthetic components of metal, plastic or ceramic that mimics a natural joint.
Types of Joint Surgery
There are several types of joint surgery available that are less invasive than total joint replacement. They include arthrodesis, arthroscopy, osteotomy and more. Healthcare professionals, along with you, can decide if one of them will work for you or if you need total joint surgery.
Arthrodesis, or fusion is a procedure that uses hardware such as pins, rods, and plates to join two or more bones together in the wrists, ankles, fingers or spine to form one continuous joint. These bones grow together over time, locking the joint in place. The procedure is best for people who suffer severe joint damage from inflammatory arthritis. Results should last a lifetime and enable you to take part in high impact physical activity.
Arthroscopy is a technique surgeons use that involves small incisions, a tiny camera, and specialized instruments to repair tears in the soft tissue around hips, knees, shoulders and other joints. Damaged cartilage can be repaired and free-floating cartilage pieces can be removed. Pain is reduced and range of motion is improved. It’s best for active people under 40.
An osteotomy is a procedure to remove bone or add a wedge of bone close to a damaged joint. It shifts weight from a damaged area to an undamaged one. This procedure is often used to correct the misalignment from hip dysplasia. It’s best for patients in their 30s who want to avoid total joint replacement surgery.
If you continue to have severe pain that other treatments, lifestyle changes, or medication haven’t helped, total joint replacement could be right for you. Thanks to improvements in implant durability, this more invasive surgery is more common in younger people than before. It has proven to be safe and successful in reducing pain, improving mobility, and a better quality of life.
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