Joint replacement surgery, even in the small joints of the hands, is an option for people whose joints have been severely damaged by rheumatoid arthritis.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Rheumatoid arthritis can damage joints so severely that they no longer function properly. If your joint function becomes unacceptable, particularly if the joint is causing you pain even at rest, your doctor might suggest joint replacement.

The inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis can weaken the cords of tissue that help hold joints together. It can also eat away at the joint's bone and cartilage. As the damage progresses, even simple tasks can become difficult, if not impossible.

Newer medications can help control this inflammation and may prevent or postpone the type of damage that might require joint replacement. But many people still become disabled from the effects of rheumatoid arthritis.

Joint replacement involves removing the damaged portions of a joint and replacing them with devices made of metal and plastic. Hips and knees are the most commonly replaced joints. Other joints that may be damaged by rheumatoid arthritis include the shoulder, elbow, wrist, ankle and hand.

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause severe hand deformities. Many of these deformities involve the joints that attach your fingers to your hand. Replacing these joints can help relieve pain and improve function.

May 06, 2014