Joint Preservation or Total Joint Replacement: What’s Right for You?

Joint preservation is a conservative technique that can preserve the natural contour of your joints and help you avoid surgery. Check out how it works, its benefits, and whether you qualify for it.

What is joint preservation?

Joint preservation is a method that focuses on preserving your joint function and delaying or avoiding joint replacement surgery.

What are the goals of joint preservation?

This technique aims to:
  • Reduce and relieve your pain
  • Minimise your chances of getting further injuries
  • Improve your joint function
  • Keep your cartilage healthy
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Improve your quality of life

How is joint preservation different from joint replacement surgery?

The joint preservation is a more conservative and less invasive method where various surgical and nonsurgical methods are used to preserve your deteriorating joint, while in joint replacement, your joint is replaced with an artificial implant. It is done in advanced cases of osteoarthritis or injuries where the joint has been extensively damaged and cannot be salvaged using more conservative options.

What are the causes of joint pain?

Joint pain has many causes. These include:
  • Arthritis
  • Injury or trauma
  • Sports injuries
  • Muscle strain
  • Bursitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Infections, such as dengue, chikungunya and other viral fevers
  • Tumours
Joint Preservation

How are joint injuries diagnosed?

Your doctor will take a detailed history of symptoms, medical history, and comorbidities and do a physical examination to check for tenderness, swelling, movement, and bony spurs. They’ll advise you to undergo imaging techniques such as:
  • X-ray: This injuries, fractures, osteoarthritic changes
  • CT scan: A CT scan gives a more accurate and detailed image of the underlying disease
  • MRI scan: MRI scans allow your doctor to visualise your bones, joints, and nearby soft tissues
  • Arthroscopy: In this, a narrow tube connected to a camera is inserted into your joint and is used to diagnose, and sometimes treat joint problems
Your doctor decides the next course of action based on your symptoms and the imaging findings.

Who’s eligible for joint preservation?

Your doctor decides if you’re eligible for this technique based on:

  • Your age: There is a higher success rate among younger patients, especially those under 50 years old
  • Your overall health: You’re more likely to benefit if you have a good health history and are generally active
  • The more severe your joint deformity is, the less likely you’ll be eligible for joint preservation. In contrast, if only a small part of your joint is damaged, you can undergo this procedure
  • The location: This technique is more suitable for the knee and hip joints
  • Your weight: The more you weigh, the greater the pressure on your joints. If you’re overweight or obese, your doctor will more likely recommend replacement surgery instead of preservation

What is done in joint preservation?

It encompasses both nonsurgical and surgical methods:
Nonsurgical methods:

  • Conservative therapy: This includes:
  • Using a cast, brace, or crutches for support Physiotherapy
  • Strengthening exercises to maintain your mobility and build up your muscles
  • Lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding activities that increase your pain, maintaining good posture, resting and getting enough sleep, and avoiding lifting heavy objects
  • Your doctor injects hyaluronic acid or corticosteroids into your joint to reduce inflammation and pain
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy: Platelets are rich in special factors, called growth factors, that help relieve pain and promote healing. Your doctor takes your blood, centrifuges it to separate the platelets from the rest of the constituents of the blood, and then injects it into the affected joint.
  • Stem cell therapy: Stem cells are special cells that can differentiate into many different types of cells. Your doctor takes stem cells from your bone marrow and injects them into the affected joint.

Surgical methods:

  • Osteotomy: Your doctor cuts and reshapes the bone in the affected joint to relieve stress and increase the joint space. It’s minimally invasive and carries a short recovery time as well
  • Cartilage transplant: In this, the damaged cartilage is replaced by a new one and placed in the damaged joint
  • Partial joint replacement: This is done when there is damage to a smaller or limited area. Your doctor only replaces the damaged part, leaving the rest of your joint and bone intact

What are the benefits of joint preservation?

This technique offers the following advantages:
  • It restores joint function and reduces joint pain successfully
  • It’s minimally invasive
  • It recreates the natural shape and contour of your joint
  • It has fewer complications and infections compared to joint replacement surgery
  • It carries a faster recovery time
  • Your active lifestyle can be resumed easily
  • It can help you avoid joint replacement surgery in the future

Could I need joint replacement surgery even after undergoing joint preservation?

If there are no significant improvements in your joint pain and mobility after conservative measures, your doctor might recommend joint replacement surgery instead.
Dr. Aditi

Dr. Aditi

An MBBS and a medical reviewer with a penchant for healthcare articles and blogs. Read her contributions and writings about various healthcare topics.

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