Whether you will need rheumatoid arthritis surgery will depend largely on how severe your disease is and if your treatment has been effective at controlling its damaging effects. Surgical procedures ranging from synovectomy to arthroplasty may be suggested by your doctor.

With the development of new medications and more aggressive, early treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, the need for some surgeries may be reduced – or even nonexistent – in the future. But for now, rheumatoid arthritis surgery remains a viable important treatment option. The development of surgical options for arthritis over the past few decades is one of the major breakthroughs in helping people remain active and continue to enjoy life after their diagnosis.

People with rheumatoid arthritis can face surgery at various points in the course of their disease. For example, in the early stages of the disease, synovectomy (the surgical removal of the synovium, or lining of the joint) may be performed when one or two joints are affected by inflammation more than other joints. However, this procedure is less common now than in the past. In later stages of rheumatoid arthritis, an arthrodesis, or fusion of a joint, may greatly relieve pain. If severe joint damage (most commonly in a hip or knee) has occurred, a total joint replacement, or arthroplasty, may dramatically relieve pain and improve a person’s ability to function.