Is RA Surgery Right for Me?


Several types of surgery are available for people with severe joint damage. The primary purpose of these procedures is to reduce pain, improve the affected joint's function, and improve the person's ability to perform daily activities.
Surgery is not for everyone, however, and the decision should be made only after careful consideration by the patient and healthcare provider. Together, they should discuss the person's overall health, the condition of the joint or tendon that will be operated on, and the reason for, as well as the risks and benefits of, the surgical procedure. Cost may be another factor.
Some surgical procedures that are commonly performed to treat rheumatoid arthritis include:
  • Joint replacement
  • Tendon reconstruction
  • Synovectomy.
Joint Replacement
This is the most frequently performed surgery for treating rheumatoid arthritis, and it is done primarily to relieve pain and improve or preserve joint function. Artificial joints are not always permanent and may eventually have to be replaced. This may be an important consideration for young people.
Tendon Reconstruction
Rheumatoid arthritis can damage and even rupture tendons, the tissues that attach muscle to bone. Tendon reconstruction is a type of surgery used most frequently on the hands, and it reconstructs the damaged tendon by attaching an intact tendon to it. This procedure can help to restore hand function, especially if the tendon is completely ruptured.
In this surgery, the healthcare provider actually removes the inflamed synovial tissue. Synovectomy by itself is seldom performed now because not all of the tissue can be removed, and it eventually grows back. Synovectomy is done as part of reconstructive surgery, especially tendon reconstruction.
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