Knee Replacement SignsJoint pain can be difficult to manage, and sometimes medical treatments are not enough. In cases where a patient’s joint pain persists despite other treatments, joint fusion procedures offer an additional option for those in need of relief.

But what is joint fusion? What can it treat? How does it help relieve joint pain in the long term? And how do you know that joint fusion surgery is the right option for you?

At OAA Orthopaedic Specialists in Allentown, PA, we offer several types of joint fusion procedures for orthopedic conditions across the body, from ankles and knees to hips, shoulders, and wrists. This complex surgery is used for conditions that have not responded to other treatments, but for those who qualify, it can be a truly long-term solution to their joint pain.

Here are some important facts to know about joint fusion surgery and how it can help you find relief:

What Is Joint Fusion?

Within your joints is a material called articular cartilage. This articular cartilage acts as a cushion between the two bones that make up your joint, allowing for smooth movement. When this cartilage breaks down or wears away due to age or injury, it leads to pain, swelling, and stiffness caused by bone-on-bone contact between two joint surfaces.

Joint fusion, also known as arthrodesis, is a procedure that fuses together bones in a joint to create one continuous bone. When two bones completely fuse, it eliminates the movement between the two bones so the joint surface easily moves. This relieves pain caused by conditions such as arthritis. Fusion surgery can be used for any joint in the body.

How Does Joint Fusion Work?

Joint fusion is a complex surgery that requires the removal of damaged cartilage and bone, followed by the insertion of rods, screws, or plates to hold two bones together while they heal. After a complete physical examination, imaging tests, and lab work to ensure you're a safe candidate for the surgery, preparation will begin.

During the procedure, surgeons make an incision in the joint area where they remove damaged bone or cartilage. A bone graft may then be inserted to help promote fusion in addition to screws and plates.

Using a local anesthetic, the surgeon will make an incision and then remove the damaged or diseased portion of the joint. The bones are then prepared by removing any excess cartilage, and rods, screws, or plates may be inserted to hold the bones in place while they heal. Finally, the incision is closed and a splint may be put on to protect the area and reduce movement.

The joint capsule surrounding the bones is often tightened to help promote the fusion process. After the procedure, patients typically need to wear a brace or cast for several weeks in order to keep the fused joint immobile and ensure proper healing.

How Does Joint Fusion Help Relieve Pain?

By eliminating pain caused by bone-on-bone contact, fusion surgery can provide long-term relief for those suffering from joint pain. By permanently fusing together two bones, the cartilage breaks down and joint movement is also reduced, allowing for normal movements. This prevents additional joint deformity and reduces the risk of further damage, as well as the pain associated with it.

Am I a Good Candidate for Joint Fusion Surgery?

Only your orthopedic surgeon can tell you whether joint fusion is the right treatment for your condition. However, generally speaking, those who have tried traditional treatments such as pain medicine and physical therapy without success are typically considered good candidates for fusion surgery.

Additionally, those who suffer from chronic joint pain or deformity caused by injury or arthritis could be candidates. A type of arthritis called osteoarthritis is the most common condition that requires fusion surgery. Rheumatoid arthritis and degenerative joint disease can also both be treated with fusion surgery.

Types of Joint Fusion Surgery

Hand & Upper Extremity Joint Fusion

The most common type of fusion surgery used to treat hand and upper extremity joint pain is carpal tunnel release. This procedure removes the top bone of the carpal tunnel (the transverse carpal ligament) to relieve pressure on the median nerve, which causes numbness, tingling, and pain in the hands and wrists.

Some patients also opt for finger joint fusion, usually for the middle joint of the finger. This procedure limits movement and reduces pain in the finger joint due to arthritis or injury.

Shoulder Joint Fusion

Another common type of fusion surgery used to treat shoulder pain is shoulder joint fusion. This procedure involves fusing the shoulder bones together to reduce movement and eliminate pain in the joint area.

Hip & Lower Extremity Joint Fusion

People suffering from hip joint pain may benefit from hip fusion surgery, which is a common procedure for those with severe arthritis. During this procedure, the hip socket is prepared by removing any damaged or diseased portions, and then the ball of the femur is fused to the hip socket.

Knee Joint Fusion

Due to arthritis or injury, knee pain can be extremely debilitating. Knee fusion surgery is a common option for those who have reached their limit with other treatments such as physical therapy and medications. During this procedure, the damaged or diseased portions of the knee bones are removed and then the two bones are fused together.

Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion is a procedure used to treat spinal disorders such as scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, and herniated discs. During this procedure, the damaged or diseased bones of the spine are removed and then replaced with metal rods and screws. The vertebrae above and below the fused area are then connected together.

At OAA, we perform a type of spinal fusion called Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion (XLIF). This procedure is minimally-invasive and helps to relieve pain while stabilizing the spine.

Where Can I Find an Orthopedic Surgeon Near Me?

The decision to have joint fusion surgery is not one taken lightly. That’s why it’s important for patients to ask their doctor any questions they may have about the procedure and to learn as much as possible before making a final decision.

At OAA Orthopaedic Specialists, our team of expert orthopedic surgeons can help guide you on whether joint fusion is the right option for you and your condition. We offer a range of joint fusion procedures that are tailored to each patient’s individual needs, allowing them to find relief from chronic joint pain.

If you’re living with chronic joint pain, schedule an appointment today to learn more about our range of joint fusion procedures and how they can help alleviate your discomfort. As the top pain specialist Allentown, PA has to offer, we look forward to helping you find the relief you need!

Ready to find relief from joint pain? The team at OAA is here to help. Schedule your first appointment with us today and get started on your road to recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does joint fusion help relieve pain?

By eliminating pain caused by bone-on-bone contact, fusion surgery can provide long-term relief for those suffering from joint pain. By permanently fusing together two bones, the cartilage breaks down, and joint movement is also reduced, allowing for normal movements. This prevents additional joint deformity and reduces the risk of further damage, as well as the pain associated with it.

How long does it take for bones to fuse after joint fusion surgery?

The time it takes for bones to fully fuse after joint fusion surgery can vary depending on factors such as the type of joint, individual healing ability, and overall health. In general, it may take several months for the bones to fuse together completely.

Will I still have mobility in the fused joint after joint fusion surgery?

Joint fusion surgery eliminates movement in the fused joint, which can impact mobility in that specific joint. However, neighboring joints can compensate for the loss of motion, allowing for functional movement overall. Your orthopedic surgeon will discuss the impact on mobility based on your specific condition.

Are there alternatives to joint fusion surgery for managing joint pain?

Joint fusion surgery is not always the first treatment option for joint pain. Depending on the specific condition and severity, other non-surgical treatments such as medications, physical therapy, injections, or joint preservation procedures may be explored. It is important to consult with an orthopedic specialist to determine the most appropriate treatment approach for your individual case.