Arthritis of the knee joint is a very common diagnosis. More than 10 million Americans suffer from knee arthritis. Osteoarthritis, which is the most common type of arthritis, is the usual cause of degeneration of the knee. This type of arthritis is linked to genetics and wear and tear related to age. Other less common types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis can also lead to similar findings. The hallmark finding of knee osteoarthritis is pain and swelling in the knee that gradually increases over time. In its later form it can lead to deformity of the knee, either knock knees or knee bowing. It is easy to make the diagnosis of knee arthritis.
Standing X-rays of the knees will show narrowing of the joint space. Over time, the cartilage wears out and the bones contact one another causing significant pain, swelling, and difficulty with bearing weight. Once the diagnosis is made, we will develop a treatment plan individualized for each patient. We will exhaust all non-surgical options first. These include such things as: anti-inflammatory medicines by mouth, physical therapy and weight loss, activity modifications, occasional knee bracing, cortisone injections into the knee and viscosupplementation injections into the knee. The last option, the viscosupplementation injections, is a gel-like injection into the knee for patients with mild to moderate arthritis which acts as a lubricant. If we exhaust all of the above options and the patient still has significant pain and loss of function, we will consider surgery.
The most common surgery is knee replacement or total joint arthroplasty. This is a commonly performed surgery whereby the arthritic cartilage and bone is removed and a prosthetic implant is inserted. We are now offering customized knee replacement prosthesis as well. (insert Zimmer video here) This surgery generally takes about 90 minutes to perform.
Patients are then admitted to our new Total Joint Replacement Center at Summit Medical Center. They receive thorough post-operative physical therapy. Most of our patients remain in the hospital for 3 days so that we can monitor their progress, treat their post-operative pain and allow them to receive some initial physical therapy. Our patients are then either discharged home where they receive more physical therapy or they are discharged to an inpatient rehabilitation center for a short period of time. Knee replacement surgery has a long proven track record of being a very successful surgery for patient’s with knee arthritis when they have failed all other non-surgical options.