Arthroplasty is surgery done to reconstruct or replace a diseased joint. For rheumatoid arthritis, arthroplasty is done to restore function to a joint or correct a deformity. Bones in a joint can be reshaped. Or all or part of the joint can be replaced with metal, ceramic, or plastic parts.
Recovery following arthroplasty may involve a 2- to 14-day hospital stay. Depending on the joint, rehabilitation may take several weeks to several months.
Surgery such as arthroplasty will not cure rheumatoid arthritis, nor will it stop disease activity. But if a joint is badly diseased, surgery may provide pain relief and improve function. Arthroplasty is considered when:
- Symptoms can no longer be controlled with medicine, joint injections, physical therapy, and exercise.
- Pain from rheumatoid arthritis can no longer be tolerated.
- You are not able to do normal daily activities.
- Narrowing of the joint space or wearing away of the cartilage and bone is causing severe pain or reduced range of motion.
Arthroplasty can relieve pain and restore enough function in a joint to allow a person to do normal daily activities.1
Risks of arthroplasty include the risks of surgery and using anesthetic and the risks of:
- Infection developing in the artificial joint (requires removal of the artificial joint and treatment of the infection).
- Development of blood clots (thrombophlebitis).
- Loosening of the joint.
To learn more about total knee and hip replacement surgery, see the topic Osteoarthritis.
Success of arthroplasty depends in part on whether a person follows a rehabilitation program after surgery.
Complete the surgery information form (PDF) to help you prepare for this surgery.
Firestein GS (2010). Rheumatoid arthritis. In EG Nabel, ed., ACP Medicine, section 15, chap. 2. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
By Healthwise Staff Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer Nancy Ann Shadick, MD, MPH - Internal Medicine, Rheumatology Last Revised May 15, 2013