A person may require surgery for osteoarthritis if other treatments are not effective. Surgical procedures for osteoarthritis include joint replacement, joint fusion, and osteotomy.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition that causes tissues in joints to break down. While symptoms may gradually worsen over time, some nonoperative treatments can help provide relief.

If these treatments do not work, a doctor may recommend surgery to alleviate pain and improve joint function.

Read on to learn more about the types of surgery for osteoarthritis. This article also looks at the benefits of surgery, possible risks, and more.

The main types of surgery for osteoarthritis are:

  • joint replacement surgery (arthroplasty)
  • joint fusion surgery
  • osteotomy
  • joint revision surgery

Joint replacement surgery

During joint replacement, or arthroplasty, the surgeon will remove all or part of a damaged joint. They will then replace this with a new artificial joint.

This artificial joint may consist of:

  • plastic
  • metal
  • ceramic

Joint replacement surgery helps to restore mobility and relieve pain. The most common joints for joint replacement surgery are hips and knees.

Joint fusion surgery

During joint fusion surgery, a surgeon fastens together the ends of bone to eliminate a joint. This allows two bones to grow together, or fuse, into one utilized bone.

Medical professionals refer to this process as fusing. A surgeon can use several options to hold the bones in place while they heal, including:

  • pins
  • plates
  • screws
  • rods

Over time, the bones will grow together and heal. This locks the joint in place.

Surgeons most commonly use joint fusion surgery to treat osteoarthritis in the:

  • spine
  • hand
  • foot

Joint fusion surgery can reduce the motion and flexibility around a joint. The surgeon will fix the joint in one position, which may put stress on other surrounding joints. This may lead to arthritis developing in other areas of the body.


During an osteotomy procedure, a surgeon cuts and removes some bone within a joint or adds a wedge of bone near a damaged joint.

This procedure can help shift the weight within the joint from an area that osteoarthritis has damaged to an undamaged area.

A surgeon may also use an osteotomy to correct a misaligned hip joint.

Joint revision surgery

If a person undergoes joint replacement surgery, a surgeon will implant an artificial joint. Artificial joint implants can last 15 to 20 years.

After this time, a person may require joint revision surgery to remove the old artificial joint and replace it with a new one.

Learn more about surgery for arthritis.

A doctor may recommend surgery for osteoarthritis if other treatments have not been effective. They may also suggest surgery if the joint damage due to osteoarthritis is extensive.

Factors that can affect how suitable a person is for surgery include:

  • their age
  • how active they are
  • the overall condition of the joint
  • how far their osteoarthritis has progressed

Learn about treatments for osteoarthritis.

Surgery can be a successful treatment for osteoarthritis.

Possible benefits of surgery for osteoarthritis include:

  • reduced pain
  • improved range of motion around a joint
  • improved joint function
  • decreased risk of falls
  • reduced risk of future joint damage
  • reduced use of anti-inflammatory drugs
  • increased ability to take part in certain sports and activities
  • improved quality of life
  • improved mental health

The better physical health a person is in before surgery, the lower their risk of experiencing complications during the procedure. It can also help shorten a person’s recovery time.

Before surgery, a doctor may advise:

  • quitting smoking if the person currently smokes
  • avoiding alcohol at least 48 hours beforehand if they drink
  • losing weight if necessary

The doctor may also recommend certain exercises before the procedure. For example, strengthening the upper body beforehand may make it easier to use any crutches or other mobility aids a person may need after surgery.

Recovery will be different for each person.

A person may expect to experience temporary pain after joint surgery as the body recovers from the procedure and the tissues heal. The pain should resolve within a few months.

If the surgeon used surgical stitches or staples to close the wound after surgery, they may remove them around 10 to 15 days after the procedure.

If a person’s wound takes longer than a week to heal, they may wish to contact a doctor. This is because they may have a joint infection. Symptoms of a joint infection include:

  • redness or discoloration
  • pain around the joint
  • a fever

Exercise is an important part of recovery. A doctor or physical therapist will usually provide specific exercises to help a person restore movement and strengthen the joint.

As with any procedure, there are possible risks of surgery for osteoarthritis. Common complications of joint surgery include:

If a person has joint replacement surgery, they may also experience complications with their artificial joint, such as loosening or dislocation.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a common complication of joint surgery in the hips or legs. DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins within the body.

Osteoarthritis surgery may also increase a person’s risk of heart problems. These risks are often higher during the first 90 days after surgery. However, the risk is still fairly low overall.

Heart problems that may occur after joint replacement surgery include:

There is also a risk of complications such as stroke and death.

A person can discuss the possible complications of osteoarthritis surgery with a doctor.

Here are some common questions about osteoarthritis.

What is the best surgery for osteoarthritis?

Total joint replacement surgery is usually a safe and successful procedure for osteoarthritis. This surgery can help a person improve their mobility and daily functioning.

What is the best treatment for osteoarthritis?

Treatment options for osteoarthritis can vary between individuals. A person can help ease pain from osteoarthritis with treatments such as medication, assistive devices, and exercises. Surgery may be an option if other treatments do not help.

Learn about physical activity and osteoarthritis.

What is end stage osteoarthritis?

Medical professionals may refer to osteoarthritis as “end stage” when it becomes severe. At this point, conservative treatments are unlikely to reduce pain or improve function. A person will often require surgery for end stage osteoarthritis.

Learn about severe osteoarthritis.

A doctor may recommend surgery for osteoarthritis if other treatments do not help alleviate symptoms.

Surgical treatments for osteoarthritis include joint replacement surgery, joint fusion surgery, and osteotomy.

Benefits of osteoarthritis surgery include reducing pain, improving the range of motion around a joint, enhancing joint function, and preventing future joint damage.

A person can contact a doctor to discuss the suitability of surgery for osteoarthritis. The doctor can advise whether they recommend surgery and help make any necessary changes to a person’s treatment plan.