Sometimes the best way to relieve pain and restore function to a joint is to replace all or part of it with a prosthesis (an artificial joint). Prostheses are intended to restore function to the joint and relieve pain associated with arthritis, other chronic conditions, or traumatic injury.
Prostheses are designed to move like regular joints. They are made of durable plastic and metal parts that fit together snugly but glide smoothly (as opposed to the painful friction associated with the worn cartilage of arthritic joints). The pieces are shaped like the structures they replace - for example, the damaged bones in a ball-and-socket joint of a hip or shoulder are replaced with a metal ball and plastic socket. They are held to the surrounding bone either with a locking mechanism or with a special bone cement.
The length and difficulty of recovery depend on the location of the joint replaced as well as the patient's age and overall health. Hip or knee surgery typically requires temporary use of a cane or walker. Some pain and stiffness following surgery is normal. Gradually, the weakened muscles regain strength and flexibility as the patient becomes accustomed to using the joint. The physician will discuss when it is safe to return to any athletic activities. Once in place, prostheses usually perform well for up to a decade or longer.
The hip and knee are the most frequently replaced joints, although it is possible to treat many others. Procedures include:
Through overuse and aging, our joints often become weak and painful, limiting movement and affecting daily lives. Healthy joint ends are covered with a cushioning layer of cartilage that protects the bones from rubbing against each other and causing pain. The effects of time and excessive wear-and-tear causes this cartilage to slowly wear away and leave our joints weak and unprotected.
Joints refer to the area where two or more bones meet. While there are different kinds of joints all over our bodies, the ones most commonly used and more easily damaged are synovial joints. Synovial joints include those in the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, hips, knees, ankles and feet.
Joint disorders are common because of the frequent pressure applied to the area throughout our lives. They are most common in athletes and older people. But joint disorders such as arthritis and fractures do not necessarily result in lifelong pain. Joint reconstructive surgery offers relief for many people through safe and minimally invasive procedures by experienced professionals.
Joint reconstruction ranges from minor repairs to the damaged joint to total joint replacement. These treatment options can offer temporary pain relief or permanent solutions to joint disorders. The type of treatment best for you depends on the type and severity of your joint disorder. Together, you and your doctor can develop the most effective treatment option for your needs.