An orthopedic surgical procedure in which a damaged joint surface is replaced or realigned. Joints can be damaged by arthritis and other diseases, injuries, or other causes. Arthroplasty is most commonly performed on the hips and knees.

In total joint replacement, the joint tissue is removed and replaced with a prosthesis, an artificial joint made of plastic, metal, or ceramic parts. In some cases, the prosthesis is cemented in place and, in others, it is not to let bone tissue grow into it. A cemented joint is used more often in older patients who don’t move around much and in people with weak bones. On the other hand, an uncemented joint is often recommended for younger patients and those with good bone quality. Uncemented joints typically take longer to heal. Possible complications of total joint replacement include infection, blood clots, loosening of the new joint, dislocation, and injury to nearby nerves and blood vessels.

Sometimes, instead of replacing the joint, the surgeon realigns it, a procedure called osteotomy. This procedure involves cutting the bone or bones around the joint to improve alignment. It takes longer to recover from osteotomy than from total joint replacement, so this type of surgery has become less common.

Want to learn more about joint replacement? Read “Recovering From Hip Replacement Surgery” and “Total Knee Replacement Recovery Tips.”

Robert S. Dinsmoor is a medical writer and editor based in Massachusetts.

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