Joint Replacement Surgery


Fast Facts

  • About 790,000 total knee replacements and 544,000 hip replacements are done every year in the U.S. This number continues to grow as our population ages.
  • Total joint replacement is one of the safest and most reliable treatments in any area of medicine. A hip or knee replacement can last for 20 or more years. In fact, for most patients, total joint replacement surgery is a lifelong solution for arthritis of the hip or knee.
  • Total joint replacement should only be considered after a reasonable attempt at non-surgical management has been unsuccessful.

Joint replacement surgeries are performed by orthopedic surgeons. These surgeries involve removing worn cartilage from both sides of the joint, then resurfacing the joint with a metal and plastic implant. The implant looks and functions much like a normal joint.

What Determines the Appropriateness of Joint Surgery?

Joint replacement surgery is usually recommended for patients with advanced end stage joint disease. Severe or “end-stage” arthritis can be caused by a range of problems including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory joint problems, previous joint injuries and fractures, joint infections, and other rare conditions such as osteonecrosis.

The decision to have surgery is based on your general medical condition and fitness for surgery. The decision is also based on how much arthritis is affecting your quality of life – how much arthritis is causing functional decline and disabling pain. Before surgery, talk to your primary care doctor to be sure your health is good enough to undergo the anesthesia and rehabilitation associated with the surgery.


The need for joint replacement surgery can be lessened by comprehensive medical treatment of arthritis. This includes medications; adjusting exercise to low impact activities (e.g., swimming, walking, biking, etc.); weight loss; nutritional supplements; and joint injections. Comprehensive medical treatment can help you live with your arthritis. However, when such treatments are no longer effective, joint replacement surgery can relieve pain and restore the quality of life lost due to arthritis.

Living with Joint Replacement

Following a relatively short period of recovery after surgery, patients usually return to a high level of activity. During recovery, you will have physical therapy. The speed of recovery following surgery depends on your general health and overall physical fitness, your level of activity before surgery, the degree and length of physical impairment before surgery, and the type of surgery you had.

Updated February 2024 by Laura Ray, MLS, and reviewed by the American College of Rheumatology Communications and Marketing Committee.

This patient information is provided for general education only. Individuals should consult a qualified health care provider for professional medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment of a medical or health condition.

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