For some arthritis patients-not all-surgery may become necessary. It can be critical in the early stages of the disease to prevent or delay joint damage and improve movement. In the later stages it can mean the difference between living a full, active life with reduced pain, swelling stiffness and further joint deterioration.

This primer gives you insight into what these surgeries are, how they're used and the difference they can make to your daily life.

More commonly known as fusion, this surgical procedure fuses two bones together. It's frequently used to relieve arthritis in fingers, wrists, toes ankles, and in the spine. It reduces movement, but can significantly reduce pain and help to stabilize joints.

During the procedure, bones from the pelvis or other areas of the body are used to fuse the two bones in the troubled joint together. In other cases metallic or plastic devices may serve this function. Eventually the bones grow and fuse together creating a more stable joint.

Possible risks of arthrodesis are pain at bone fusion site, nerve injury, infection and failure of the fusion or breakage of the metal implants.

This is the technical term for joint replacement surgery, which is the most common type of arthritis surgery. It has been quite successful in treating people with both RA and OA.

It makes the ends of bones in the joint smooth again so that proper motion and activity is restored. It is usually performed on the knee and hip, but occasionally in the shoulder, elbow and finger. While usually performed on people over age 50, you can be a younger candidate for it if you had arthritis from childhood.

The medical community is still in debate about a procedure called minimally invasive surgery for knee and hip replacement. Unlike the traditional total joint replacement method, this technique promises to limit tissue damage, scarring and trauma that results from the surgery.

Possible side effects of arthroplasty include infection, blood clots, and death.

This procedure can be done in most joints to improve joint function. However, it's commonly performed in the knee and shoulder. During arthroscopy small incisions are made through which a surgeon passes a thin tube called an arthroscope. This instrument is connected to a closed-circuit TV, which enables the doctor to assess the joint and repairs and repair the problem, such as damaged cartilage or a rough joint surface.

Arthroscopy is less invasive than other surgeries. It leaves smaller scars, causes fewer complications, and allows for a quicker recovery in most cases.

Possible risks include infection, inflammation, blood clots, and nerve, tissue or additional joint damage. 

A clue to this surgery is that it literally means "to cut bone." During this procedure joint bones that are not properly aligned are cut and repositioned to improve alignment, movement and stability. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) it can restore function and significantly reduce osteoarthritis pain.

The knee and hip are the joints most commonly corrected during an osteotomy. This helps to shift the weight where damaged cartilage exists to areas where there's healthier cartilage. The AAOS states that the best candidates are under age 60, active, overweight, and have no inflammation.

Risks include blood clots, infection, nerve damage, bleeding in the joint, and inflammation in the joint tissues.

During a resection the surgeon removes a piece or all of the joint bone. Although less popular than in the past, it is still commonly used to repair arthritic joints in the feet and relieve pressure. It improves joint function and makes walking much less painful.

The AAOS indicates that it's also performed in combination with an arthroplasty (called a resection arthroplasty) to repair joints in the shoulder.

Possible risks include infection, numbness and recurrence of the deformity.

A synovectomy is usually performed as an arthroscopic procedure on joints in the knee, elbow or wrist. It removes diseased parts of the synovium, which is the protective lining between the joint. This lining acts like a filter to remove bacteria or viruses and debris from the joint.

It is also used to repair a tendon rupture, which can occur in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

A synovectomy can also be combined with a resection. Overall it will help to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain.

According to a study published in the National Institutes of Health database PubMed side effects include stiffness, swelling and recurrence of the disease.