What is an orthopedist?
Orthopedists specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and prevention of injuries to and diseases of the musculoskeletal system – the network of bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves that gives the body its shape and allows us to move.
What is arthritis?
In a healthy joint, the bone ends are covered with a smooth cushion of cartilage and the joint is protected by a fluid-filled capsule called the synovium. Arthritic joints are swollen, or inflamed, usually because the cartilage has been damaged in some way. Patients with arthritis suffer pain, stiffness and swelling in the affected area or areas. Nearly one in three adults suffers from arthritis or other chronic joint symptoms.
There are over 100 different types of arthritic diseases. The most common is osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease in which the cartilage protecting the bone ends wears away. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s own immune system attacks the joint lining.
How can joint replacement help?
Sometimes the best way to relieve pain and restore function to a joint is to replace all or part of it with a prosthesis (an artificial joint). Prostheses are intended to restore function to the joint and relieve pain associated with arthritis, other chronic conditions, or traumatic injury.
Prostheses are designed to move like a regular joint. They are made of durable plastic and metal parts that fit together snugly but glide smoothly (as opposed to the painful friction associated with the worn cartilage of arthritic joints). The pieces are shaped like the structures they replace – for example, the damaged bones in a ball-and-socket joint of a hip are replaced with a metal ball and plastic socket. They are held to the surrounding bone either with a locking mechanism or with a special bone cement. Once in place, prostheses usually perform well for up to a decade or longer.
Read more about total hip replacement
Read more about total and partial knee replacement