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Synovectomy for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Surgery Overview

Synovectomy surgery removes the inflamed joint tissue (synovium) that is causing unacceptable pain or is limiting your ability to function or your range of motion. Ligaments and other structures may be moved aside to access and remove the inflamed joint lining. The procedure may be done using arthroscopy.

What To Expect

As soon as possible after surgery, a physical therapist will teach you how and when to move the joint. What happens during recovery depends on the surgical technique used and the location of the incisions.

After knee synovectomy, your knee will be immobilized in a removable cast. You will start physical therapy after 1 or 2 days.

Why It Is Done

Synovectomy may be used to treat joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis that have minimal bone or cartilage destruction when medicine has not relieved pain.

Synovectomy may be considered if significant pain persists after 6 to 12 months of drug treatment, including the use of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).

How Well It Works

Synovectomy does not cure the disease. But it may relieve symptoms for a while.footnote 1

Risks

Risks of synovectomy include the risks of surgery and using anesthesia and a slight risk of infection and bleeding inside the joint. You may also lose some range of motion of the joint. Or the inflammation in the joint may come back.

References

Citations

  1. Firestein GS (2010). Rheumatoid arthritis. In EG Nabel, ed., ACP Medicine, section 15, chap. 2. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.

Credits

Current as of: July 1, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Nancy Ann Shadick MD, MPH - Internal Medicine, Rheumatology