Osteoarthritis Treatment Orthopedic Surgery

In the not too distant past, only after all other arthritis treatments had failed (and the affected joint had become badly damaged) was orthopedic surgery considered. With ongoing advances in osteoarthritis surgical techniques, however, more doctors are considering surgery as a viable way to reduce arthritis pain, repair damaged joints, and generally improve the quality of life for arthritis sufferers.

Orthopedic surgery for arthritis comes in many different forms, some more invasive and complicated than others. Here are the most common surgical techniques used to treat arthritic joints:


An osteotomy is performed to correct abnormal bone joint growth. The bones are cut and reset, removing bone spurs and damaged areas. An osteotomy is often performed on the tibia if the knee is arthritic. This surgery corrects weight-bearing problems caused by the damaged knee.


Orthopedic resectioning involves the partial or complete removal of a bone. Damaged foot bones are often removed to lessen pain caused by walking. A resection may also be performed on a wrist, thumb or finger to improve joint mobility and provide pain relief.


Arthrodesis is a surgical technique that fuses the joint bones together. The joint loses a great deal of mobility and flexibility as a result, but is stronger. After the procedure, arthritic pain in the joint is gone. Arthrodesis is usually performed on the ankle, wrist, finger or thumb.


Sometimes referred to as revision joint surgery, arthroplasty rebuilds damaged joints, either by resurfacing the damaged bones that make up the joint or by replacing the joint with an artificial joint. Arthroplasty is most commonly used for the hips and knees, but arthroplasty of the shoulders, elbows, ankles and hands is also possible.

Total hip replacement surgery is a type of arthroplasty. The arthritic hip is removed and replaced with an artificial joint, most often made of metal, ceramic or plastic. Total hip replacement surgery is major surgery, but has a high rate of success, greatly reduces pain and increases mobility.

Uni-Compartmental Arthroplasty: A specialized form of arthroplasty, uni-compartmental knee replacement is used when only one portion of the knee joint is damaged by osteoarthritis. Only the affected portion of the joint is replaced. Unfortunately, in most cases, osteoarthritis affects more than one area, so this procedure is performed relatively infrequently as compared with total knee replacement.


Arthroscopy is a procedure in which a thin tube, called an arthroscope, is inserted into the joint. The tube is attached to a television monitor, allowing surgeons to assess the damage done to the joint.

Arthroscopy is not just used as a diagnostic aid, however. Using the arthroscope, surgeons can smooth joints and repair damaged cartilage. Arthroscopic knee surgery and arthroscopic shoulder surgery are very common, and the technique is also performed on elbows, wrists and ankles.

Arthroscopic Knee Surgery: Arthroscopic knee surgery is one of the less invasive knee surgeries. Because the arthroscope can be handled with precision, surgery time is quite short. The knee is able to recover and bear weight faster than with other surgical techniques.

Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery: Arthroscopic shoulder surgery is performed frequently, as arthroscopic techniques allow the large shoulder joint to be operated on without extensive surgery. Recovery from arthroscopic shoulder surgery, as with other arthroscopic surgeries, is quite rapid.


Matsen, F.A. (updated 2002). Basics of surgery for arthritis. University of Washington Orthopaedics