Surgery for Arthritis

Sometimes treatments such as medication and physiotherapy are not enough to manage your arthritis pain and problems with day-to-day function. Your doctor may refer you to a surgeon to see if an operation (surgery) is right for you.

What kinds of surgery are performed for arthritis?

Not all arthritis-related bone and joint problems can be treated through surgery. Surgery can:

  • Repair damaged tissue (e.g., torn meniscusA soft-tissue structure that lines some joints and provides load distribution, shock absorption, and lubrication.)
  • Remove damaged or painful tissues (e.g., painful synoviumThe inner membrane of the joint capsule that produces synovial fluid.)
  • Replace damaged joint surfaces with artificial parts (e.g., hip replacement)
  • Rest damaged or painful joints (e.g., ankle fusion)

How do I decide if surgery is right for me?

Your surgeon will discuss your options and whether surgery is right for you. It is important to ask questions prior to making a decision such as:

  • What are the risks of having the surgery?
  • What are the benefits of having the surgery?
  • What can I expect to happen before, during and after the surgery?
  • What are the treatment alternatives if I decide not to have surgery?

There are other additional questions you should take into consideration. Ensure you have a thorough discussion with your surgeon prior to surgery. Visit the Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation website for more information.

After your surgery

After surgery, it is important to follow your surgeon and health care team’s advice. Following recommended rehabilitation and exercise programs will help you recover more quickly.

Most people will receive rehabilitation and physiotherapy in an out-patient department or private practice clinic after surgery. Speak with your surgeon about your rehabilitation options after surgery and seek out rehabilitation providers who have experience treating people with arthritis-related surgery. Visit the Physiotherapy Association of BC Website to find a physio near you.

In addition to following your health care team’s advice, it is also important to:

  • Eat well both before and after surgery
  • Take an active role in preparing for surgery and recovering afterward
  • Ask a family member or friend to attend appointments and education sessions with you
  • Stay physically active (as your arthritis will allow and with the support of your health care team)