3 Surgical Options for Sufferers With Rheumatoid Arthritis

May 7th 2016

There are several surgical options for treating painful rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and decreasing your dosage of potentially harmful drugs such as steroids. However, no surgery is 100 percent safe, and all of the options available carry their own drawbacks. Talk honestly with your physician about what you hope to gain from surgery, and find out the risks for your particular case before making a decision.

Arthroplasty: Replacement Joints

The most common surgery for rheumatoid arthritis is replacement of the knee and hip joints. Other joints can also be replaced, but these weight-bearing joints are often the most damaged and painful. Statistically, they are also the most successful types of surgery for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. They are therefore the points where a cost/benefit analysis of surgery is most favorable. As with all joint surgeries, you still need to discuss your general health, overall weight and bone density with your physician to check that you are not at risk of additional complications. These replacement joints can also wear out over time; some doctors do not recommend this surgery for younger patients.

Arthrodesis: Bone Fusion

This surgery is most commonly recommended by doctors to help with issues in the feet, though other parts of the body can benefit. It involves fusing the bones to make the joint immobile, which reduces pain from movement. This reduces the utility of the joint, but as it prevents pain on a permanent basis, you may consider it a fair trade-off. Some joints are more suitable for this type of treatment because of their naturally limited range of motions. These are often weight-bearing foot joints, such as the heel or the big toe.

Synovectomy: Removal of the Membrane Between Joints

The membrane between certain joints, the synovium, is one of the first parts of the joint to become inflamed in many cases of rheumatoid arthritis. It produces excess synovial fluid, which destroys nearby cartilage and causes pain and swelling. By cutting away the bulk of this membrane, surgeons can stop this from happening, but this is only useful if the disease is caught early. The membrane can grow back over time, when problems can recur. Speak to a medical professional to determine whether the procedure is suitable for your particular case; recovery times for a thorough removal can be lengthy. However, the pain relief results are often very good, at least in the short term to medium term.


If medication and physiotherapy are no longer working to control the pain of your rheumatoid arthritis, there are some surgical options you can consider. As with all surgery, you should be aware of the potential benefits and risks of these operations before deciding whether to go ahead.

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