What is arthroplasty?

Arthroplasty is a surgery to
restore the function of a joint. A joint can be restored by resurfacing the bones. An
artificial joint (prosthesis) may also be used.

Various types of arthritis may
affect the joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common reason for arthroplasty. This is a
common degenerative joint disease. It causes a loss of the cartilage or cushion in a

Why might I need arthroplasty?

Arthroplasty may be used when
medical treatments no longer relieve joint pain and disability. Some treatments for
osteoarthritis that may be used before arthroplasty include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Pain medicines
  • Limiting painful activities
  • Assistive devices for walking, such as
    a cane
  • Physical therapy
  • Cortisone injections into a knee joint
  • Viscosupplementation injections, to
    add lubrication into the joint to make joint movement less painful
  • Loss of excess weight
  • Exercise and conditioning

People who have arthroplasty
usually have a lot of relief from their joint pain. They are more able to do daily
activities, and have a better quality of life.

Most joint surgery is done on the
hip and knee. Surgery on the ankle, elbow, shoulder, and fingers is done less often.

There may be other reasons for
your healthcare provider to advise arthroplasty.

What are the risks of arthroplasty?

All surgery has risks. The risks of
this surgery include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clots in the legs or lungs
  • Loosening of prosthetic parts
  • Stiffness or pain that does not go away

Nerves or blood vessels in the area
of surgery may be injured. This results in weakness or numbness. The joint pain may not
be relieved by the surgery. Or full function of the joint may not return.

There may be other risks depending
on your overall health. Talk about any concerns with your healthcare provider before the

How do I get ready for arthroplasty?

  • Your healthcare provider will explain
    the procedure to you. Ask any questions that you have about the procedure.
  • You will be asked to sign a consent
    form. This gives your permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully. Ask
    questions if something is not clear.
  • Your healthcare provider will ask
    about your health history. He or she may also give you a physical exam. This is done
    to make sure you are in good health before having the procedure. You may have blood
    tests or other diagnostic tests.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are sensitive to or are allergic to any medicines, latex, tape, and anesthetic agents (local and general).
  • Tell your healthcare provider of all medicines (prescribed and over-the-counter) and herbal supplements that you are taking.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you
    have a history of bleeding disorders or if you are taking any anticoagulant
    (blood-thinning) medicines. Tell him or her if you take aspirin, or other medicines
    that affect blood clotting. You may need to stop these medicines before the
  • If you are pregnant or may be
    pregnant, tell your healthcare provider.
  • You will be asked to not eat for 8
    hours before the procedure, generally after midnight.
  • You may receive a sedative before the procedure to help you relax.
  • You may meet with a physical therapist
    before your surgery to talk about rehabilitation.
  • Arrange for someone to help around the
    house for 1 or 2 weeks after you are go home from the hospital.
  • Based on your overall health,
    your healthcare provider may advise other kinds of preparation.

What happens during arthroplasty?

Arthroplasty usually requires a stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare provider’s practices.

Arthroplasty may be done while you
are asleep under general anesthesia. Or it may be done while you are awake under local
anesthesia. Your anesthesiologist will talk with you in advance.


Generally, arthroplasty follows this process:

  1. You will be asked to remove clothing
    and will be given a medical gown to wear.
  2. An IV line may be started in a vein in
    your arm or hand.
  3. You will be positioned on the
    operating table in a way that gives the best access to the joint to be treated.
  4. A urinary catheter may be inserted.
  5. If there is a lot of hair at the
    surgical site, it may be shaved off.
  6. The anesthesiologist will watch your
    heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and blood oxygen level during the
  7. The skin over the surgical site will
    be cleaned with an antiseptic solution.
  8. The healthcare provider will make an incision in the area of the joint.
  9. He or she will repair or remove the
    damaged parts of the joint.
  10. The incision will be closed with stitches or surgical staples.
  11. A sterile bandage or dressing will be applied.