Surgery for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Surgeons at NYU Langone may recommend total joint replacement if rheumatoid arthritis has significantly damaged the joints of the hands and feet, limiting your ability to participate in everyday activities. In this procedure, surgeons replace the bones of the ankle or wrist joints with durable plastic and metal parts.

These prosthetic parts mimic the motion of a healthy joint, restoring function and eliminating arthritis pain.

After you are given general anesthesia, your surgeon makes an incision above the affected joint, then removes the damaged bones and cartilage. Two metal pieces are implanted to replace the joint, and a plastic spacer is inserted between them to ensure that the joint has a smooth, gliding motion. The incision is closed with stitches.

After surgery, our pain management specialists prescribe medication to help you remain comfortable while your wrist or ankle begins to heal. Our doctors recommend remaining in the hospital overnight for observation.

When you are discharged, doctors provide you with a supportive splint to wear for at least two weeks. If the ankle joint is replaced, most people use crutches to avoid putting weight on the foot and ankle.

Doctors schedule a follow-up appointment 10 to 14 days after the procedure to assess how well the affected joint is healing. They then determine whether you should continue to wear a splint to make sure the joint heals completely.

When the joint is healed, doctors recommend four to eight weeks of physical therapy as you recover strength, flexibility, and range of motion.

Many prosthetic joints last for years. However, in some instances, a prosthetic joint may wear out, and the joint becomes unstable. Your surgeon may schedule annual follow-up appointments to monitor the implanted joint and, if necessary, explore surgical options to repair or replace aging parts.

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