Surgery Insight: orthopedic treatment options in rheumatoid arthritis

Nat Clin Pract Rheumatol. 2008 May;4(5):266-73. doi: 10.1038/ncprheum0767. Epub 2008 Mar 11.


Longstanding rheumatoid arthritis (RA) leads to disability, caused mainly by joint destruction. The current goals of surgical intervention are to restore function and quality of life, prevent joint deterioration, relieve pain, and correct deformity. A number of different surgical treatment options are available to patients with RA, including synovectomy, arthrodesis, joint replacement, and soft tissue and special hand surgery; nonoperative management is also important. Decision-making and timing for orthopedic intervention are complex issues because of polyarticular involvement. Functional impairment, pain, and the subsequent loss of quality of life and inability to work have become the main considerations for surgical reconstruction. Early referral for orthopedic treatment can lead to improved functional benefit for patients with RA. The decision for orthopedic intervention should be established by an interdisciplinary team that includes rheumatologists and orthopedic surgeons experienced in the surgery of RA. Priority should be given to the joint that causes the greatest disability and pain. Disease progression and pharmaceutical treatment options should be taken into consideration when establishing an orthopedic intervention protocol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Orthopedic Procedures*
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Synovectomy