This is one question which most of my arthritis patients, who are waiting for joint replacement surgery ask me. Actually the word is a misnomer, it should be actually cartilage replacement which I think is more self explanatory.The word Joint replacement makes the patient to think that the whole joint is completely replaced by cutting the bones across which we never do,instead we only shave the damaged cartilage with some underlying bone.
The joints in human body performs normally by the presence of a specialized tissue called cartilage. The cartilage covers the bone at the articulating surfaces like a mushroom and reduces the friction coefficient between the two surfaces, thereby enhancing the longevity of the joint.
In severe joint arthritis involving the knee, hip, shoulder and elbow, this specialized cartilagenous tissue is severely damaged, and the regenerating capability of the cartilage also is very meagre. Hence, the damaged cartilage is replaced by prosthesis in joint replacement surgery. So, it is not the bone forming the joint is replaced, but it is the damaged cartilage which is shaved and replaced by prosthesis. Nowadays this has become a relatively simple and one of the most common orthopedic procedures and we can definitely say that is procedure has given a new lease of life to patients who are sufering from severe arthiritis.