What is Knee Arthritis?
Our knees unfortunately are the main weight bearing joints of our body and undergo a great deal of wear and tear over time. Many people develop problems with stiffness, swelling, and pain in the knees as a sign of maturity. The cartilage on the end of the bones in our knees is much like the tread on a tire, with enough miles we will wear the tread down and have very little left. At that point you can essentially have a retread as we do in techniques for cartilage defects or just have a whole new set of tires as we do in a knee replacement procedure.
Most arthritis of the knee is due to the natural wear and tear known as osteoarthritis. Inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, previous injuries, or surgeries may cause your knee to wear out too. When the cartilage has significantly worn out the best option to relieve the pain and restore your function is generally a knee replacement surgery. Depending on how much of the knee is worn out we can discuss whether a total knee replacement would be required or possibly a partial knee replacement. We see the knee as three different compartments (medial, lateral, and under the kneecap). Each of these can individually be replaced or the entire knee can be replaced.
What are the treatment options for knee arthritis?
After a history, physical examination, and x-rays of the knee we can determine how much arthritis may be involved in your knee. If there have been previous arthroscopic evaluations of the knee the information from these arthroscopies can be helpful in determining what treatment would be best for you. Knee replacements today have evolved tremendously. Minimally invasive techniques along with newer metals and types of knee replacements have allowed people to regain a “new lease on life”. I have many patients who exercise regularly, play sports, and enjoy getting out and doing activities that they have not been able to do comfortably in a longtime. People often ask when they should have knee replacement because they have been told that they should wait as long as possible. Often times when you look at stairs and feel like you cannot go up them one more time or are embarrassed to get out with your friends and family because you can only walk so far before you are looking for a place to sit down it is time to look for options for your knee. I tell my patients that when they cannot do the things that they want to do it is time to at least consider talking about a knee replacement. There is no need to live with this type of arthritis pain.
Knee replacements and minimally invasive techniques
Today’s surgeries can generally be performed with a minimally invasive technique using smaller incisions that spare the muscles providing a faster total knee replacement recovery and less pain. Also new technologies and components may make knee replacements last longer. We are also able to use combinations of digital navigation and templating techniques to make customized knees for each individual patient given their specific anatomy and deformities that have occurred over time. Generally, a knee replacement procedure will take approximately one hour and most patients can be discharged from the hospital within a couple of days to a therapy program. Most patients are walking soon after surgery and often times returning to many of their activities of daily living within four to six weeks after knee replacement surgery. If you would like to talk more about knee replacement surgeries, please feel free to contact me or schedule an appointment.