Arthritis is the loss of cartilage (cushioning material) between the bones, resulting in bone-on-bone contact. Loss of this cartilage results in pain, and a limited range of motion sometimes occurs. The type of arthritis that commonly occurs in the knees is called osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that may be hereditary or may be the result of overuse (wear and tear), excess weight, developmental disorders, and/or injury. Joint space narrowing as a result of cartilage loss often causes bone spurs to develop and can severely alter joint biomechanics. In severe cases, the joint may become unstable. Occasionally, these alterations of normal knee function may lead to visible “bowleg” or “knock-knee” joint deformities. Osteoarthritis can be extremely painful and can cause aching, swelling, and stiff joints.
Symptoms of Knee Arthritis
- Pain in the knee(s)
- Knee joints may be warm and tender to the touch
- Bony deformities may be seen or felt around the knees
Treatments for Knee Arthritis
There are nonsurgical and surgical treatment options available for knee arthritis. Both treatment types are performed by our knee specialists at Orthopaedic Specialists.
Implementing lifestyle modifications such as losing weight, switching from high-impact exercise (i.e., running) to low-impact exercise (i.e., swimming or biking), and avoiding aggravating activities can be very effective for reducing the pain associated with knee arthritis. Even a modest weight loss of only a few pounds can significantly affect the amount of joint pain you’re experiencing. Supplementing with glucosamine, chondroitin, or other natural anti-inflammatories may be helpful. Other nonsurgical treatments to help relieve pain and discomfort associated with mild cases of arthritis include taking anti-inflammatories, wearing a knee brace or sleeve, using a cane, wearing energy-absorbing shoes or inserts, and/or receiving corticosteroid injection(s). While nonsurgical treatment can relieve mild cases of the condition, surgery may be necessary if it continues to worsen.
Diagnosis Using Knee Arthroscopy
When your knee becomes painful from overuse or arthritis, your surgeon may recommend knee arthroscopy (looking at your joint using a tiny video camera) to diagnose and even treat your problem. When you undergo the arthroscopic procedure, your surgeon can better understand the extent of your condition and may find less invasive options that can eliminate your symptoms.
Surgical Treatments for Knee Arthritis
Minimally Invasive Arthroscopic Knee Surgery
Dr. John Hoffman, Dr. Tuvi Mendel, and Dr. Kristyn Darmafall are experienced orthopaedic surgeons who perform arthroscopic knee surgery as a minimally invasive method of relieving pain and restoring function. During surgery, small incisions are made, through which an arthroscope (small video camera) is inserted into your knee joint to allow your surgeon to view the surgery on a monitor. Less severe cases of knee osteoarthritis respond well to surgical debridement, which means to “clean up the joint.” Special equipment is used to remove bone spurs and damaged tissue to improve the healing potential of the healthy tissue. This technique results in smaller incisions, less scarring, less pain, and faster recovery than open surgical procedures.
In cases of knee osteoarthritis in which the bony changes have altered alignment of the knee joint, your surgeon may perform an osteotomy (bone removal) of the tibia (shinbone), the femur (thighbone), or both. This procedure results in pain relief, proper realignment of the knee joint, and improved function.
Minimally Invasive Unicompartmental (Partial) Knee Replacement
In some cases of knee osteoarthritis, only a portion of the knee is affected. To spare the healthy, normal functioning portion of the knee, technologically advanced surgical techniques used by our fellowship-trained specialists allow our surgeons to replace only the damaged portion of the knee. With this minimally invasive procedure, only the severely damaged cartilage and bone are replaced, not the whole knee. This surgery requires only a small (approximately 3-inch) incision. This procedure generally results in more rapid pain relief, proper realignment of the knee joint, and improved function.
Total Knee Replacement
Also called total knee arthroplasty, a total knee replacement is a procedure designed to remove damaged and painful tissues from the joint and replace them with prosthetic devices that can restore your strength and motion. If nonsurgical techniques prove ineffective, this method may help enhance your quality of life.
What happens after knee surgery?
Recovery is an essential part of the process, and each step is integral to achieving the desired outcome. We will provide detailed instructions to help make your healing experience as comfortable and effective as possible. If you ever have any questions between follow-up visits, our medical team is happy to provide answers and supply you with any information you might need to enhance your outcome.