Emily Rindt

Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind, and spirit. – B.K.S. Iyengar

Medicine · 23.03.2023.

Arthrodesis vs. Arthroplasty: Choosing the Right Joint Surgery

Joint pain is a common issue faced by millions of people around the world. It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as arthritis, injury, or the natural aging process. When conservative treatments like medication, physical therapy, or lifestyle changes are not sufficient to provide relief, patients may need to consider surgical options.

Two of the most common joint surgeries are arthrodesis (joint fusion) and arthroplasty (joint replacement). This article will explore the key differences between these procedures and provide guidance to help you decide which might be the best option for you.

Arthrodesis: An Overview

Arthrodesis, also known as joint fusion, is a surgical procedure that involves permanently fusing two or more bones in a joint together. This is done to eliminate the joint’s movement, thereby reducing pain and providing stability. The procedure is usually recommended for patients with severe arthritis, joint deformities, or chronic joint instability. Some of the most common joints treated with arthrodesis include the ankle, wrist, and spine.

The Arthrodesis Procedure

During an arthrodesis surgery, the surgeon will remove any damaged cartilage and bone from the affected joint. Then, the adjoining bones are fixed together using metal plates, screws, or rods. Over time, the bones will grow together, forming a solid and stable connection. This fusion process can take several months, and the patient may need to wear a cast or brace during the healing period.

Arthroplasty: An Overview

Arthroplasty, commonly referred to as joint replacement surgery, is a procedure that involves replacing a damaged joint with an artificial one. The main goal of arthroplasty is to restore function and relieve pain in the affected joint. This surgery is typically recommended for patients with severe joint damage due to arthritis or injury, as well as those with limited mobility and persistent pain that has not responded to conservative treatments. Some of the most common joints treated with arthroplasty include the hip, knee, and shoulder.

The Arthroplasty Procedure

During an arthroplasty surgery, the surgeon will remove the damaged joint surfaces and replace them with artificial components, often made of metal, plastic, or ceramic. These components are designed to mimic the natural movement of the joint, allowing for a smoother and more pain-free range of motion. The recovery process for arthroplasty can vary depending on the specific joint and individual patient factors, but generally includes physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises to restore strength and mobility.

Comparing Arthrodesis and Arthroplasty: Key Differences

While both arthrodesis and arthroplasty aim to provide relief from joint pain, there are some significant differences between the two procedures:

  1. Joint movement: Arthrodesis eliminates joint movement, while arthroplasty seeks to preserve or restore it. This can be an important consideration for patients who want to maintain an active lifestyle or participate in specific activities.
  2. Indications: Arthrodesis is more commonly used for smaller joints or in cases where joint instability is a primary concern. Arthroplasty is typically recommended for larger, weight-bearing joints with significant damage.
  3. Surgical complexity: Arthroplasty is generally considered a more complex procedure than arthrodesis, as it involves the implantation of artificial components. This can sometimes result in a longer surgery time and a higher risk of complications.
  4. Recovery and rehabilitation: The recoveryand rehabilitation process for both arthrodesis and arthroplasty can be extensive, but they differ in some aspects. Arthrodesis patients may need to wear a cast or brace for an extended period, while the bones fuse together. In contrast, arthroplasty patients typically start physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises soon after surgery to restore strength and mobility.

Choosing the Right Procedure for Your Needs

Determining whether arthrodesis or arthroplasty is the most suitable option for your joint pain depends on several factors, including your overall health, the severity of your joint damage, and your personal preferences and goals. It is essential to consult with a qualified orthopedic surgeon who can evaluate your specific situation and provide guidance on the best course of action.

Here are some questions to consider when discussing your options with your doctor:

  1. What are my long-term goals for joint function and mobility? If maintaining or improving joint movement is important to you, arthroplasty might be a more suitable option.
  2. How severe is my joint damage, and what is the primary cause? The severity and underlying cause of your joint problem can help determine whether arthrodesis or arthroplasty would be more effective.
  3. What is the expected recovery and rehabilitation process for each procedure? Understanding the differences in recovery time and rehabilitation requirements can help you make a more informed decision.
  4. What are the potential risks and complications associated with each surgery? Weighing the risks and benefits of each procedure is essential in making the right choice for your needs.
  5. What is the success rate for each procedure? Your surgeon should be able to provide you with information on the long-term success rates and outcomes for both arthrodesis and arthroplasty.


Arthrodesis and arthroplasty are both effective surgical options for treating chronic joint pain, but they differ in their approach, indications, and outcomes. By understanding the key differences between these procedures and discussing your options with a qualified orthopedic surgeon, you can make an informed decision that best meets your needs and goals for joint pain relief and improved quality of life.