Nearly one in three adults suffers from the swollen, stiff and painful joints of arthritis. Arthritis is the most common chronic ailment among the elderly, although it can affect people of any age, including children. There are over 100 different types of arthritic diseases. The most common is osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease in which the cartilage protecting the bone ends wears away, while others may include rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile arthritis.
Treatment for arthritis typically involves a combination of anti-inflammatory medication and devices to relieve stress on the joint (canes, crutches or splints). Regular exercise, weight loss for overweight patients, and cortisone injections may also be helpful. Despite the wide range of treatment options available to relieve arthritis pain, some people are so severely affected by this condition that their pain is unresponsive to conservative methods. Long-term, disabling arthritis pain may benefit from joint surgery to reduce pain and restore normal functioning.
Joint surgery for arthritis depends on the location and severity of the pain. Hip and knee surgeries are most common, but some procedures can also be used for the ankles, wrists, fingers and thumbs. Many of these procedures are minimally invasive as new technology helps to provide less scarring and shorter recovery times.
A few of the most common procedures performed to treat arthritis include:
- Arthrodesis - fusing the bones of a joint together for improved stability and effective pain relief
- Arthroscopy - minimally invasive procedure that allows for careful examination and minor repairs, such as removing torn cartilage or bone ends
- Osteotomy - involves cutting or repositioning the bone to restore proper alignment and treat osteoarthritis
- Resection - removal of part or all of a bone for diseased joints that helps improve function and relieve pain
- Synovectomy - removal of the synovium or tissue lining to reduce pain and swelling and slow the progression of the disease
Total joint replacement is considered a last resort option for treating arthritis, and involves removing the damaged bones and tissues and replacing them with synthetic materials to stimulate the natural behavior of the joint. While this is the most complex and advanced procedure, it is very successful and can last for several years. Less complex procedures include arthrodesis, arthroplasty, osteotomy, resection and synovectomy, which relieve pain by removing or repairing damaged joint materials.
After surgery, patients will likely experience pain and discomfort, which can be managed through pain medication prescribed by our joint replacement specialist, Dr. Brian Bacot.
You will be encouraged to get up and walk around as soon as you feel comfortable, in order to promote healing and expedite the physical therapy process. Most patients are able to return to light activities after three to six weeks if they remain committed to the rehabilitation process. More strenuous activities should be avoided for several months, or permanently, depending on each specific case. Dr. Bacot will provide you with specific post-operative instructions in order to achieve the best possible results.
Recovery times and results from arthritis surgery depend on the type of surgery performed and each patient's individual condition. Most patients experience effective pain relief and improved motion after surgery, provided that they have realistic expectations prior to their procedure.
No surgery is performed without any risks, and arthritis surgery is no exception. Although considered rare, risks may include infection, blood clots, nerve damage, circulation problems and reactions to anesthesia, among others. Patients can reduce these risks by choosing an experienced surgeon to perform their procedure.
To learn more about arthritis treatment options, please request an appointment online or call (340) 779-2663.