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Total Joints

An arthritic or damaged joint is removed and replaced with an artificial joint, called a prosthesis.

The goal is to relieve the pain in the joint caused by the damage done to the cartilage. The pain may be so severe, a person will avoid using the joint, weakening the muscles around the joint and making it even more difficult to move the joint. A physical examination, and possibly some laboratory tests and X-rays, will show the extent of damage to the joint. Total joint replacement will be considered if other treatment options will not relieve the pain and disability.

You will be given an anesthetic and the surgeon will replace the damaged parts of the joint. For example, in an arthritic knee the damaged ends of the bones and cartilage are replaced with metal and plastic surfaces that are shaped to restore knee movement and function.

In an arthritic hip, the damaged ball (the upper end of the femur) is replaced by a metal ball attached to a metal stem fitted into the femur and a plastic socket is implanted into the pelvis, replacing the damaged socket.

Although hip and knee replacements are the most common joint replaced, this surgery can be performed on other joints, including the ankle, foot, shoulder, elbow, and fingers.

The materials used in a total joint replacement are designed to enable the joint to move just like a normal joint.

The prosthesis is generally composed of two parts: a metal piece that fits closely into a matching sturdy plastic piece. Several metals are used, including stainless steel, alloys of cobalt and chrome, and titanium. The plastic material is durable and wear resistant (polyethylene). A plastic bone cement may be used to anchor the prosthesis into the bone.

Joint replacements also can be implanted without cement when the prosthesis and the bone are designed to fit and lock together directly.

http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00233