Authored by Revere Health

Different Procedures For Osteoarthritis

June 4, 2018 | Orthopedics

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis out there, causes inflammation and pain in joints in several areas, frequently the hands, knees, hips and spine. It’s due to eroding cartilage that allows bones to rub against each other during joint movement, and is more common in older adults due to natural wear-and-tear on the body.

Initially, treatment for osteoarthritis will focus on conservative areas like physical therapy, medications, and various lifestyle modifications that might help with symptoms. If these treatments are unsuccessful, however, one of a few different surgical procedures might be recommended.



Arthroscopy is a type of surgery where the surgeon enters the damaged joint using a fiber-optic video camera. This camera is attached to a small tube called an arthroscope, which is inserted into the joint.

With the assistance of this camera, your surgeon can use small incisions to smooth the rough areas causing pain and inflammation. Additionally, they can also remove any loose cartilage, bone fragments or cysts that may have broken off.

Arthroscopy is a relatively low-impact surgery with a short recovery time compared to others, but as such, it may also have fewer benefits. It’s only generally effective for specific types of injuries, and less so for treatment of osteoarthritis.


Arthroplasty (Total Joint Replacement)

During arthroplasty, the entire damaged joint is removed and then replaced, either with plastic or metal parts. This procedure comes with more risks than arthroscopy, such as blood clots and infection, but it’s also generally much more effective at removing pain symptoms. Do be aware, however, that replacement joints used in arthroplasty can wear down and require replacement themselves – around 20 years is a good time to check on this.

Injections and Other Types

There are a few other surgical procedures that might benefit those suffering from osteoarthritis:

  • Injections: In some cases, your doctor might recommend corticosteroid injections, which can relieve pain in the area. You can usually only get three or four of these a year. You may also be recommended hyaluronic acid injections, which provide cushion to the knee similar to liquid naturally found in the joints. However, research on these injections is mixed in terms of their effectiveness.
  • Osteotomy: This is a difficult procedure where the surgeon cuts bone near the affected joint, then adds a wedge of bone to realign the joint and remove some of the pressure. Not only is this surgery tough to perform, it is not as effective for osteoarthritis as arthroplasty.
  • Joint fusion: Through the use of pins, plates, rods or screws, the surgeon connects two (or more) bones together to form a single joint that will fuse together over a period of time. Joint fusion surgery has pros and cons: it is generally permanent and has a good success rate limiting pain symptoms, but it also eliminates certain parts of your flexibility for life and may strain other joints in the area – in some cases, this can lead to osteoarthritis spreading.

Before choosing any of these forms of surgery, speak with your doctor and also ask yourself basic questions about your pain tolerance, medications, worsening symptoms and whether you’ve looked hard enough for more conservative solutions. Your doctor can also help you determine if you’re healthy enough for surgery.

Dr. Carlson tends to be conservative with surgical treatment, and much of his training is in minimally-invasive procedures, such as arthroscopy. He believes everyone deserves a trial of a more conservative treatment before moving to more invasive treatments such as surgery. Dr. Carlson tries to spend time with patients to better understand their goals and work together to come up with a treatment plan based on those goals and their distinct medical history.



“Do I Need Surgery for Osteoarthritis?” WebMD.

“Osteoarthritis.” The Mayo Clinic.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.