End-stage arthritis is the progressive wearing down of the cartilage that is present between the bones of a joint causing the bones to come in contact with each other and painfully rub against each other during movement of the joint. This results in severe pain with loss of movement and function.
Diagnosis of end stage arthritis can be made with X-rays that demonstrate complete loss of joint space between the bones.
When you reach end stage arthritis, nonsurgical treatment options such as medications, bracing and injections are usually no longer effective. Effective treatment usually involves surgery and may include:
- Joint fusion: The bone surfaces are smoothed, held together with screws and plates, and placed in a cast until the bones of the joint fuse with each other. It provides substantial pain relief but sacrifices on mobility. A drawback of this method is the adjacent joints may be overused to compensate for the loss of mobility of the joint, resulting in degeneration and arthritis of those joints as well.
- Joint replacement: The arthritic joint is replaced by 2 or 3 artificial implants that glide against each other. This method provides pain relief as well as functional range of motion of the joint.
- Distraction arthroplasty: The arthritic joint is placed in a framework that is slowly adjusted to pull the joint surfaces apart and create a favorable environment for regeneration of cartilage. This method is usually performed in young patients.
When considering the best possible course of treatment, the factors taken into consideration will include the joint location, your age, activity level, bone quality, and alignment. Consulting an orthopedic surgeon who is highly qualified in treating arthritic conditions will ensure selection of the ideal treatment plan to suit your condition.