What Is the Difference Between Arthroplasty and a Joint Replacement?

If you try to find the answer online, chances are you still won’t be sure if there’s a difference between arthroplasty and a joint replacement. Some websites say arthroplasty is a total joint replacement, but they leave you wondering if that includes a partial joint replacement; a few sources hint at a broader definition that includes other joint procedures.

As a leading specialist in hip and knee replacements, Andrew B. Richardson, MD, understands that medical jargon is confusing, and he always takes the time to fully explain terms and procedures. Let’s look into the meaning of arthroplasty and the surgical procedures included under the arthroplasty umbrella.

Arthroplasty explained

Arthroplasty comes from two Greek words — “arthro” means joint, and “plasty” refers to the process of molding or forming. In modern medical terms, arthroplasty refers to the surgical reconstruction or replacement of a joint.

In other words, arthroplasty is the same thing as joint replacement surgery. Some medical professionals and online sources only use the term “arthroplasty,” while others stick with “joint replacement.” However, the terms are interchangeable.

Joint procedures included under arthroplasty

Orthopedic surgeons can replace nearly every joint in your body, but the hip and knee joints account for most arthroplasties. We recommend joint replacement surgery when your joint is extensively damaged and your symptoms don’t improve with conservative treatments.

Advanced arthritis is the top reason for joint replacement surgery. You might also need arthroscopy if you suffer joint damage during an accident or have a condition that interferes with the blood supply to the bone.

The top joint replacement procedures include:

Total hip arthroplasty (total hip replacement)

During a total hip replacement, we clean away the damaged tissues in the hip socket and remove the rounded bone at the top of your thigh. After restructuring your bones to fit the prosthetic pieces, we place a cup-shaped metal shell in the hip socket and a new metal ball at the top of your thigh. A plastic liner in the shell recreates the cartilage.

Partial hip arthroplasty (partial hip replacement)

If you’re a good candidate for a partial hip replacement, we remove and replace the ball of the thigh and leave the hip socket untouched.

Hip resurfacing (hip resurfacing arthroplasty or hip surface replacement)

Hip resurfacing is another type of replacement that preserves the leg bone. Instead of removing and replacing the top of the thigh, we only trim away the damaged bone and cap the surface with a metal cover. Then we replace the hip socket.

Total knee arthroplasty (total knee joint replacement)

A total knee replacement addresses all three components of the joint — the femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone), and patella (kneecap). Just like a hip replacement, we remove all of the damaged tissues and restructure the bones so they’re a good fit for the prosthetic pieces.

The thigh bone gets a metal prosthesis that covers the top of the bone and curves over the front and back. The prosthetic piece perfectly recreates the shape of your original bone.

We flatten the top of your shin bone, insert a metal stem into the center of the bone, and fasten a flat prosthetic piece to the stem. A plastic liner on top of the metal takes the role of cartilage.

Finally, we resurface the underside of the kneecap and cover it with a plastic liner. All three components work together to restore normal, pain-free knee movement.

Partial knee arthroplasty (unicompartmental knee replacement or partial knee replacement)

Your knee joint naturally forms three separate compartments. When your arthritis only damages one of the compartments, we can replace just that one area with prosthetic parts. This allows us to preserve all the healthy bone inside the joint.

If you have any questions about arthroplasty or you know you need joint replacement surgery, call Andrew B. Richardson, MD, or book an appointment online today for a personalized consultation.

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