Joint Disorder Treatment Vocabulary

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  • 0:02 Joint Disorders
  • 0:43 Surgical Treatments
  • 3:07 Joint Replacements
  • 5:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Betsy Chesnutt

Betsy teaches college physics, biology, and engineering and has a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

Joint disorders such as arthritis are very common and can be painful and debilitating. In this lesson, learn about the potential treatments for joint pain and disability.

Joint Disorders

Your joints are truly remarkable. They allow you to walk, run, bend over to tie your shoes and so much more. Your joints are constantly in motion throughout your lifetime, and over time or because of injury, they can become damaged and worn. The cartilage covering the ends of the bones in a joint can become rough and pitted, and there can even be damage to the underlying bone.

This can cause pain and limit mobility. What can be done to help patients who suffer from these painful and debilitating joint injuries and disorders? To understand more about all of the treatment options that are available, let's follow a patient, Sarah, as she talks with her doctor about her knee pain.

Surgical Treatments

Sarah is a 67-year-old woman who just retired and is looking forward to spending some time traveling and playing with her grandchildren.

However, she has been having a lot of pain in her knee, and she's worried that it will keep her from doing everything she has planned. Her doctor recently diagnosed her with osteoarthritis and told her that she should think about the treatment options so that she can enjoy her retirement with less pain and more mobility. Sarah has been studying all the different treatment options for joint pain so that she can make an informed decision about what she needs to do. Her doctor told her that an arthroplasty is any surgical procedure where the joint surfaces are replaced, remodeled or realigned. And although Sarah isn't really happy about having surgery, she realizes that it is probably the best option for her. Now she just needs to decide which type of arthroplasty would help her the most.

In a bursectomy, a fluid-filled sac, called a bursa, is surgically removed from a joint. A bursa can be removed if it is infected or there is chronic inflammation, a condition known as bursitis. However, this is a rare surgery, since most cases of bursitis can be more easily treated with physical therapy or injections. Although the knee joint does contain several bursae and arthritis can contribute to bursitis, Sarah doesn't think that this surgery is likely to correct all of her problems.

In patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis, part of the synovial membrane surrounding a joint is removed in a procedure known as synovectomy. This would only be done if there was severe inflammation in and around the joint and would not be used to treat osteoarthritis, which is the condition that Sarah suffers from.

Another type of arthroplasty that can be performed on osteoarthritis patients is osteotomy. In an osteotomy, bone is removed to reshape the joint surface. This is commonly performed in cases where bone has healed improperly following a fracture or to straighten bones, although it can also be used to relieve the pain of arthritis.

It can be a painful procedure and does not cure arthritis completely, although it can be a good option for younger people who want to slow the progression of arthritis without a more invasive surgery. Since Sarah is already 67 and has severe osteoarthritis, she doesn't think osteotomy is a good option for her.

Joint Replacements

Although osteotomy used to be a very commonly performed surgical treatment for arthritis, the most common and most successful treatment now is joint replacement. Many joints, including the shoulder, elbow, wrist and finger joints can be successfully replaced with prosthetic joint implants, but the most commonly replaced joints are hip and knee joints. Sarah is, of course, most interested in learning more about knee replacements. She found out that there are two general types of knee replacements: a total knee replacement and a partial knee replacement. In a total knee replacement, the ends of the femur and tibia are completely removed and replaced with metal and plastic prosthetics.

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