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Arthritis Procedures

This page contains a list of procedures used to treat or diagnose arthritis. These include both invasive and non-invasive procedures.

Electromyography: is a test that measures muscle response to nervous stimulation.

Sympathectomy: a surgical procedure that destroys nerves in the sympathetic nervous system

Arthrocentesis Joint aspiration

Different types of scans as procedures for diagnosing arthritis


CAT Scan

Ultrasound of the joint

Bone scan

Blood tests as procedures for diagnosing arthritis

ANCA are abnormal antibodies found in the blood in most people with Wegener's granulomatosis, a disease that affects the upper respiratory tract, lungs, and kidneys. They are uncommon in other diseases, which makes them useful in diagnosing this particular disease. ANCA levels are sometimes used to follow the course of Wegener's granulomatosis.

HLA-B27 is a genetic marker. In people with inflammatory arthritis of the spine and joints (not osteoarthritis), a positive HLA-B27 test is associated with the presence of one of a group of diseases called seronegative spondyloarthropathies. This includes diseases such as ankylosing spondylitis (AS), psoriatic arthritis, and Reiter's syndrome (also called reactive arthritis). HLA-B27 is present in about 90% of people with AS, but the gene can also be seen in people with no sign of arthritis or inflammation.

Antinuclear antibody (ANA) Commonly found in the blood of people who have lupus, ANAs (abnormal antibodies directed against the cells’ nuclei) can also suggest the presence of polymyositis, scleroderma, Sjögren's syndrome, mixed connective tissue disease or rheumatoid arthritis. Tests to detect specific subsets of these antibodies can be used to confirm the diagnosis of a particular disease or form of arthritis.

Rheumatoid factor (RF) Designed to detect and measure the level of an antibody that acts against the blood component gamma globulin, this test is often positive in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Uric acid By measuring the level of uric acid in the blood, this test helps doctors diagnose gout, a condition that occurs when excess uric acid crystallizes and forms deposits in the joints and other tissues, causing inflammation and severe pain.

HLA tissue typing This test, which detects the presence of certain genetic markers in the blood, can often confirm a diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis (a disease involving inflammation of the spine and sacroiliac joint) or Reiter’s syndrome (a disease involving inflammation of the urethra, eyes and joints). The genetic marker HLA-B27 is almost always present in people with either of these diseases.

Erythrocyte sedimentation rate Also called ESR or “sed rate,” this test measures how fast red blood cells cling together, fall and settle (like sediment) in the bottom of a glass tube over the course of an hour. The higher the rate, the greater the amount of inflammation.

Lyme serology This test detects an immune response to the infectious agent that causes Lyme disease and thus can be used to confirm a diagnosis of the disease.

Skin biopsy Taking small samples of skin and examining them under a microscope can help doctors diagnose forms of arthritis that involve the skin, such as lupus, vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels) and psoriatic arthritis.

Muscle biopsy By going a little deeper into the tissue than with the skin biopsy, the surgeon can take a sample of muscle to be examined for signs of damage to the muscle fibers. Findings can confirm a diagnosis of polymyositis or vasculitis.

Joint fluid tests – In this procedure, which is similar to drawing blood, the doctor inserts a needle into a joint space and removes fluid. An examination of the fluid may reveal uric acid crystals, confirming a diagnosis of gout or bacteria, suggesting that the joint inflammation is caused by infection.

Surgical procedures used to treat arthritis

Arthrodesis: a bone fusion done to relieve pain, usually in the ankles, wrists, fingers and thumbs. The two bones forming a joint are joined together so that the resulting fused joint loses flexibility. However, a fused joint can bear weight better, is more stable and is no longer painful.

Arthroscopy: the use of a tool called an arthroscope, a very thin tube with a light at the end, to see directly into the joint through a small incision in the skin. The arthroscope is connected to a closed-circuit television and allows the physician to see how much damage there is, and to treat what may be causing pain, such as torn meniscus cartilage (the cartilage disk in between the two articular surfaces of a joint), articular cartilage debris, synovial or joint lining tissue and ligaments. This procedure is done most often on knees and shoulders.

Arthroplasty: the rebuilding of joints. This can be done by resurfacing or relining the ends of bones when cartilage has worn away and bone has been destroyed. Arthroplasty also refers to total joint replacement.

Osteotomy: the correction of bone deformity by cutting and repositioning the bone, ideally in people with misalignment of certain joints and mild osteoarthritis. Osteotomy can correct the forces across the joint, particularly for weight-bearing joints of the knee. It is also useful in people with unilateral hip osteoarthritis who are too young for a total hip replacement.

Resection: the removal of part or all of a bone. This is often done when diseased joints in the foot make walking very painful and difficult, or to remove painful bunions. Resection on part of the wrist, thumb or elbow can help improve function and relieve pain.

Revision Joint Surgery: the replacement of artificial joints and damaged bone with special plastic and metal parts. This surgery is necessary when a previous joint replacement wears out. It is more difficult and takes longer than total joint replacement surgery. As always, make sure your doctor is experienced in this type of surgery. View an animation of revision hip surgery or revision knee surgery.

Synovectomy: the removal of the synovium or tissues lining the joints. This reduces pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis and prevents or slows down the destruction of joints. However, the synovium often grows back several years after surgery and the problem can happen again. Synovectomy can be done by surgically opening the knee or with arthroscopy.

Carpal tunnel release, which involves releasing or cutting a ligament in the wrist to relieve pressure on a nerve that runs through the middle of the wrist and supplies feeling to the hand (median nerve).

Silicone implant arthroplasty, a procedure that replaces damaged joint surfaces in the fingers with plastic or metal-and-plastic coverings. This can restore more normal finger alignment, ease pain, and improve function.

Total joint replacement: the removal of damaged bone or joint tissue, which is then replaced with metal, ceramic and plastic parts. This surgery has been widely used for many years with excellent results, especially for knees and hips. Other joints, such as shoulders, elbows and knuckles, may also be replaced. This surgery has enabled many people who were severely disabled to become more active. View an animation of total hip replacement , total knee replacement or total shoulder replacement surgery.

Unicondylar Knee Replacement: a procedure used when only one of the two major joint compartments of the knee - medial or lateral - is severely involved with arthritis. The knee joint has three compartments - medial, lateral and the kneecap compartment. The advantages of a unicondylar versus a total knee joint replacement include less bone loss at surgery, easier revision when and if that becomes necessary and a usually shorter operating time and recovery period. View an animation of this procedure.






This web site is intended for your own informational purposes only. No person or entity associated with this web site purports to be engaging in the practice of medicine through this medium. The information you receive is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other health care professional. If you have an illness or medical problem, contact your health care provider.

Arthritis can develop as a result of an infection. For example, bacteria that cause gonorrhea or Lyme disease can cause arthritis. Infectious arthritis can cause serious damage, but usually clears up completely with antibiotics. Scleroderma is a systemic disease that involves the skin, but may include problems with blood vessels, joints, and internal organs. Fibromyalgia syndrome is soft-tissue rheumatism that doesn't lead to joint deformity, but affects an estimated 5 million Americans, mostly women. The approximate number of cases in the United States of some common forms of arthritis. is an informational out reach of the Consumer Health Information Network. It is our goal to provide up to date information about arthritis and other inflammatory and bone conditions in a easy to understand format.

Where we get our information.

Most of the information in the site is compiled by editors from information provided by the National Institutes of Health. We are in the process of updating our pages. In the past we have not made reference to the source for information provide by our editors. In the next few weeks we hope to have all our pages marked as to the source.

We have included information from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Pages that uses information from this source are so acknowledged.

We have contributing authors that send information. Where information is provided by an outside author it is acknowledged by a byline under the title.

Updates of Pages.

Not all of our pages have a date as to the last update. We are in the processes of reviewing all our pages and as we do we include a reference as to when the page was updated. This web site was first published in January of 2003. All pages in the site were created at sometime during or after that time.