Get Back in the Game Faster
By John C. Kagan, M.D. –
Constant knee pain that prevents you from performing everyday activities like walking, bending and climbing stairs, or enjoying a game of golf or tennis, can be difficult. It can certainly limit your quality of life. The first step is to try nonsurgical treatments such as a knee brace, pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections or lubricants. But when these options have failed to provide adequate relief, surgery may be the best solution. With the advance of technology, patients with disabling knee pain may be candidates for arthroscopy, an effective and less invasive alternative to traditional surgery.
Arthroscopy offers many advantages, including less trauma to the body, reduced pain during recovery and a faster return to regular activity. According to a 2008 study published in Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery, more than 80 percent of patients were able to walk, do yard work and other light activity a week after surgery. By four weeks, 100 percent of patients were active again.
A Less Invasive Option for Knee Replacement Surgery
Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that is performed on an outpatient basis, which allows most patients to go home the same day rather than staying overnight in the hospital. There are many other advantages as well.
Arthroscopy requires only tiny incisions, large enough to allow the surgeon to insert a tiny endoscopic tube about the size of a pencil into the knee. The tube, called an arthroscope, has a miniature camera on the end that sends high-resolution images of the inside of the knee to a high-definition television monitor. The images are clear enough to give the physician a detailed view of the interior of the knee to diagnose and treat problems related to the ligaments, cartilage and bone. Using specially designed small surgical instruments, the physician can remove damaged tissue and repair the internal knee structures.
More than 4 million people worldwide undergo arthroscopy for knee-related problems, according to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. Good candidates for the procedure include people with a damaged anterior or posterior cruciate ligament in the knee or meniscus tears – common sports-related conditions; misalignment of the patella (the kneecap); inflammation of the lining of the knee joint, some types for fractures of the knee; and for removal of a cyst, loose or broken cartilage and bone.
What to Expect After Knee Arthroscopy
Because knee arthroscopy is less invasive and there is less trauma to the tissue, recovery is faster than with traditional surgery and most patients experience less discomfort during the healing process. For the first few days after surgery, you will need to refrain from putting weight on the knee and will need to keep the leg elevated. Ice packs can help relieve swelling and pain medications will be prescribed.
Therapeutic exercises at home or physical therapy in the office may be recommended to help strengthen the muscles and restore motion to the knee. Depending on what was required to repair the damage to the knee, most patients can return to their regular physical activity within four to six weeks.
Do you have questions?
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