Arthritis in its many forms is a chronic condition that often leads to disability due to the pain it causes. While conservative treatment such as rest, heat and cold compresses, exercise, splints and medications can offer relief, surgery is often the best option for severe, debilitating joint pain.
The decision to have surgery is a major one that should be thoroughly discussed with an orthopaedic surgeon. Its important that you ask many questions of your surgeon, including asking about his or her experience and success with the particular procedure. You should also find out about the expected results of the procedure and how you can prepare both mentally and physically for surgery.
There are a number of surgical procedures to treat arthritis. Procedures include: removing the diseased or damaged joint lining; realignment of the joints; fusing the ends of the bones in the joint together, which helps prevent joint motion and relieves joint pain; and replacing the entire joint (total joint replacement). Total joint replacement has been shown to dramatically improve patients quality of life by offering pain relief, restoring range of motion, and a returning people to most or all normal activities.
Due to improved technology, artificial joints, called prostheses, are more durable, with implants lasting 15 to 20 years. The best candidates for joint replacement surgery are fit and healthy and have few pre-existing conditions. While obese patients may still be considered for surgery, excess weight can slow healing and increase the risk of post-surgical infection. A thorough consultation with your doctor is the best way to determine if surgery is the best treatment for your arthritis pain.