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.
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.
Many different types of joint in the body can be replaced, from tiny finger joints to large joints such as the knees.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.