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Treatment: Joint Replacement

Joints that have been severely damaged by a disorder such as arthritis or by an injury may be surgically replaced with artificial joints made of metal, ceramic, or plastic. The joints that are most commonly replaced are the hips, knees, and shoulders; ankle, elbow, and wrist joints, and small joints in the hands and feet, are also routinely replaced. During the operation, the ends of damaged bones are removed and the artificial components are fixed in place. The operation usually relieves pain and increases the range of movement in the affected joint, and is often associated with significant improvement in the quality of life.

Hip replacement

The most commonly replaced joint in the body is the hip. During the operation, both the pelvic socket and the head of the femur (thighbone), which fits into the socket, are replaced. The operation is carried out under general anaesthesia and involves a short stay in hospital.

Preparing to replace the hip

To prepare for the fitting of the new joint, the pelvis is shaped to accept the new socket. The head of the femur is removed, and the centre of the bone shaped to fit the femoral component.

Artificial hip joint

Artificial hip in position

This X-ray shows an artificial hip joint in place, with the femoral component fitted into the femur (thighbone) and the socket fitted into the pelvis.

Other joints

Many different types of joint in the body can be replaced, from tiny finger joints to large joints such as the knees.

Artificial shoulder joint

This replacement shoulder joint has components fitted in the humerus and the scapula.

Artificial knee joint

This replacement knee joint has artificial components fitted both in the femur (thighbone) and in the tibia (shinbone).

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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