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Types of Joint Replacements

There are several types of joint replacements that are commonly performed. Board certified surgeons can perform hip replacements, knee replacements, and shoulder replacements. These are the most common types of replacements but finger, toe and elbow joints can also be replaced. Most of the time, a joint is replaced to increase a person’s mobility and improve function. What type of joint replacement is used will depend largely on which type of joint is being replaced; and the types of movements that are required from the joint. There are several different arthroplastic replacements that are available.

Joint Replacement

Joints form when two or more bones are connected by cartilage which is a special kind of tissue. When the cartilage is healthy, it will work like a protective cushion and allow the joint to move smoothly and without friction. When an injury or disease damages the cartilage, there can be pain in the region of the joint and it can be inflamed. As the cartilage wears away over time, the bone’s rough edges can begin to rub each other which can become very painful. If only a small portion of the joint is damaged, the surgeon might just replace the parts that are damaged. If the whole joint has sustained damage, then a total joint replacement must be performed. A NJ surgeon will remove the joint and replace it with a prosthetic joint. Joint replacements are considered to be medical devices and are regulated by the FDA. There are different types of joint replacements. The most common reasons for having a joint replaced is osteoarthritis. But there are also cases where a person is born with defective cartilage or a deformed joint.

Ceramic Joints

Ceramic is usually used in a hip replacement. It’s not a hard enough substance to use in the knee. This is because ceramic cannot withstand the body weight and stress associated with movement in this smaller area. It is smooth and will not need any of the adjustments that are commonly required when a hip replacement is performed with other types of joint materials.

Polyethylene or Metal

At one time, all replacement joints were made out of surgical metals such as cobalt, titanium, and stainless steel. There are other types of materials used for prosthetic joints as technology improves. Many joints are made from a hard, smooth plastic called polyethylene. This allows the joint ease of movement. It is sometimes used along with various metals in some types of joints because the metal can offer additional strength.

Silicone Joint Replacements

Silicone used to be used solely for finger joint replacements. It works well for the smaller joints as it is very flexible and allows for the movement that is needed in the fingers. The trouble was in attaching it to the bone and this lent the material used in the joint to the possibility of complications. It is slowly being replaced with some of the improved plastics and it is expected that replacement finger joints will soon be made of plastic instead of silicone.


Zirconium is a new type of joint replacement. This material is hard on the inside, like the metal joints; but smooth on the outside like ceramic joint materials. It is expected that over the next few years this type of joint replacement will be improved and will eventually become the primary material used in joint replacements. Zirconium sustains little or no damage from normal wear and tear and therefore extends the amount of time that a patient has before a new replacement is needed. Most state that this type of joint replacement almost doubles the amount of time that is needed between replacements.

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