Health & Wellness

Knee Osteoarthritis: When to Consider Surgery

If you have osteoarthritis, you are one of more than 32.5 million Americans who suffer with the condition, according to the Center for Disease Control. The most common type of this disease affects the knee. That has serious implications for people who are active.

What is Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Osteoarthritis wears away the cushion that protects the joint, often resulting in painful bone-on-bone contact. Sometimes bone spurs form, and, in addition to causing pain, they can break off and get stuck between bones. That can lock up a joint. The disease can be genetic, the result of injuries, a result of obesity, or age-related. Regardless of the cause, the result is the same: pain and decreased mobility. There are several different treatments for arthritis in the knee. The most invasive treatment is knee surgery.

What is Involved in Knee Surgery

There are three main types of knee surgery for arthritis. The first is called arthroscopy. A small telescope is used to see inside the joint. The surgeon uses a small telescope to get into the knee and remove damaged cartilage and pieces of bone. This procedure is generally used in people under 55 years old to delay more major surgery. Recovery is usually a few days.

The second type is osteotomy. In this surgery, the surgeon changes the shape of the bones to get them into better alignment. This surgery is not permanent.

The third type of knee surgery for arthritis is arthroplasty. This is a complete knee joint replacement using plastic or metal parts. It is major surgery, and recovery may take several months.

Treatment Before Considering Surgery

Surgery is a major decision and should be considered after all other treatments have been exhausted. If pain is severe, a doctor may suggest a cortisone injection into the knee. This procedure can only be performed three times in a lifetime for each knee. Often, exercise is recommended with the injection, including those intended to strengthen the core for better posture and weight-bearing.

Medications such as NSAIDs and topical creams may be suggested as well as other pain-relief methods. Many things can be done to delay or even prevent the necessity of surgery.

When to Consider Surgery

If the disease progresses to the point that nothing seems to relieve the pain and your mobility is curtailed, it may be time to think about having surgery. Other indications are pain that doesn’t go away when you are at rest, a bowing of your legs, swelling or inflammation that doesn’t go away, and pain that doesn’t respond to NSAIDs. Choosing surgery is a major decision that should be made only after understanding the facts about knee osteoarthritis and all other options that you have.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common diseases. However, it is little comfort to know you are one of the millions of people who suffer from it. What matters is getting relief. To do that, you must understand the disease.


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