What is a total joint replacement?

Robert J. Otto, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
A total joint replacement replaces all surfaces of the joint. For instance, in a total knee replacement, we replace all three compartments of the joint:
  • the inside or medial
  • the outside or lateral
  • the patellofemoral, behind the kneecap
Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
A total joint replacement is a major surgery used to repair a joint that has extensive osteoarthritis damage. It is usually very successful. Knees and hips can be replaced, but less commonly shoulders and elbows can be replaced too. In a joint replacement, doctors resurface the ends of bones and attach artificial joint surfaces that can move without causing pain. In a knee replacement, for example, the ends of the femur, or thigh bone, and the tibia, or shin bone, are resurfaced. Then the artificial joint is attached. Healing and physical therapy can take months after one of these major surgeries.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.