Total Joint Replacement
This article is an introduction to total joint replacement surgery. Comprehensive information on specific types of joint replacement - such as for the hip, knee, shoulder, or wrist - can be found in separate articles devoted to those topics. Direct links to individual joint replacement topics are provided in the "Related Articles" section of this page.
Total joint replacement is a surgical procedure in which parts of an arthritic or damaged joint are removed and replaced with a metal, plastic or ceramic device called a prosthesis. The prosthesis is designed to replicate the movement of a normal, healthy joint.
In 2011, almost 1 million total joint replacements were performed in the United States. Hip and knee replacements are the most commonly performed joint replacements, but replacement surgery can be performed on other joints, as well, including the ankle, wrist, shoulder, and elbow.
A joint is where the ends of two or more bones meet. There are different types of joints within the body. For example, the knee is considered a "hinge" joint, because of its ability to bend and straighten like a hinged door. The hip and shoulder are "ball-and-socket" joints, in which the rounded end of one bone fits into a cup-shaped area of another bone.
Several conditions can cause joint pain and disability and lead patients to consider joint replacement surgery. In many cases, joint pain is caused by damage to the cartilage that lines the ends of the bones (articular cartilage)-either from arthritis, a fracture, or another condition.
If nonsurgical treatments like medications, physical therapy, and changes to your everyday activities do not relieve your pain and disability, your doctor may recommend total joint replacement.