Human joints are typically formed at the junction of two or more bones. The ends of the bones are connected by thick tissues, such as the joint capsule and ligaments, and are often surrounded by muscles and tendons which aid in joint movement. For example, the knee joint is a hinge joint formed between the lower end of the femur, or thigh bone, and the upper end of the tibia, or shin bone. The hip is a ball and socket joint, formed by the upper end, or head, of the femur (the ball), and a part of the pelvis called the acetabulum (the socket).
The surface of each bone at the level of the joint is covered by a layer of smooth cartilage which allows an undamaged joint to move smoothly with little friction. Normally, the motion of our joints should occur relatively painlessly. When a joint becomes arthritic, which may occur for many different reasons, the cartilage becomes worn or damaged. This often leads to joints becoming stiff and painful. The capsule surrounding the joint is also frequently lined by tissue called synovium. The synovium produces fluid which provides nutrients to the joint and aids in reducing friction. The synovium frequently becomes inflamed in arthritic or damaged joints and can cause pain and swelling.
Joint pain may become so severe that a person will avoid using the joint. This process may lead to loss of motion (stiffness/contractures) and weakening the muscles around the joint making further motion even more difficult. A physical examination, X-rays, and possibly other tests performed by your surgeon, can show the extent of damage to the joint. When other treatment options will not adequately relieve the pain and disability, joint replacement, also called joint arthroplasty, may be considered.
Joint replacement involves removing the arthritic or damaged portions of a joint and replacing either part of, or the entire, joint or the surface of the joint, with an artificial one, called a prosthesis. The materials used for joint replacement are typically made from metal, polyethylene (plastic), or ceramic. The goals of joint replacement are to restore function and relieve the pain caused by the inflamed, worn, or damaged bone and cartilage.
At Castle Orthopaedics, our surgeons have vast expertise in joint replacement from your shoulder and elbow to your hip and knee. Our surgeons perform the latest in both total joint replacement, where the entire joint is replaced, and partial joint replacements, where only the damaged or arthritic portions of the joint are replaced. Castle surgeons were the first to perform the Birmingham Hip Resurfacing procedure at Rush Copley. Castle surgeons also frequently utilize advanced computer navigation for joint replacement depending upon your individual situation. Furthermore, Castle surgeons have expertise in ‘patient-specific’ joint replacement where, prior to surgery, the instruments used to perform the joint replacement are custom made for that individual patient based upon his or her unique anatomy. The surgeons at Castle Orthopaedics are also highly skilled at all forms of minimally-invasive joint replacement surgery, which can aid in initial recovery. Our surgeons can also revise, or re-do, a previously performed joint replacement that has failed or become painful. Each patient and each joint has unique characteristics that demand specialized attention.
Portions excerpted from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.