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Surgery for arthritis

Joint replacement involves replacing a damaged joint with an artificial joint. In the year ending December 2012, more than 86,000 hip and knee procedures were performed in Australia. Joint replacements were once only offered to older people with severe arthritis of the hip or knee. Now they are increasingly performed on younger people if there is a need. This is largely due to advances in materials being used to build artificial joints, making them longer-lasting, as well as options such as partial joint replacements and other less invasive procedures. The procedure is also available for shouldes, elbows, wrists, fingers, ankles, toes and intervertebrawl discs in the spine. 

Most types of surgery for arthritis are performed to :

  • relieve severe pain that has not responded to other treatments
  • improve movement and use of a joint, for example improve flexibility of your hip to allow you to walk and sit more comfortably
  • improve alignment (position) of joints, for example straighten finger joints to allow you to grip and hold objects

This can help make daily activities easier and improve your quality of life. 

Conditions that may lead to joint replacement are:

  • osteoarthritis
  • inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • trauma or injury
  • birth defects and growth disorders
  • certain fractures that don't heal properly - the most common is a fracture at the top end or 'neck' of the thigh bone (femur) near the tip
  • avascular necrosis - interruption of the blood supply of a bone, leading to the death of bone tissue
  • severe infections of joints
  • cancer in or near a joint

To learn more about joint replacements and surgery download the information sheet which provices an introduction to the most common types of surgery for arthritis, tips when speaking to your doctor, and how to be prepared for it. The booklet Joint Replacement provides a more indepth look at why surgery may be needed, the causes, life before and after surgery and the long-term outlook.