If you have a knee condition (whether it is a mild discomfort or a diagnosed case of arthritis) and you are looking for treatment options, it is very important that you understand how your knee works.
Your knee is the largest joint of your body and supports the entire weight of the body. Two bones called the femur (the upper bone) and the tibia (the lower bone) come together to make up your knee joint. Both the bones are covered with a softer tissue called cartilage that absorbs any shock that may fall on your knee. Additionally, you also have certain elastic tissues called the ligaments which hold the bones together and facilitate knee movement.
What Is Arthritis?
The cartilage that protects the knee bones from shock wears out over time with use. When that happens, the bones are left bare open to one another and any kind of movement of the knee will result in friction of the bones. This friction not only hampers the smooth movement of the knee but also is painful.
The degree of pain and the difficulty in the movement will increase gradually as more and more of your cartilage tissue gets worn out. Based on this degeneration, you may be at one of the 4 stages of arthritis.
Treatment For Arthritis
The treatment for arthritis depends on how severe your condition is. If you have ever looked into an X-ray of the knee, you will see that in a healthy knee, there is a gap between the two bones. This gap is normal. As wearing out of the cartilage occurs, the gap starts to reduce until, in stage 4, there is no gap in between the bones.
Medicine & Physiotherapy
The lesser the gap is, the more severe is your condition. If the gap has reduced only slightly, you may have Stage 1 and Stage 2 arthritis. At this stage, pain medication and cartilage strengthening medicines can help you slow down the progress of arthritis. Additionally, physiotherapy can help you shift the ‘heavy-work’ to the neighbouring muscles and de-stress your knee joint. On this note, understand that these forms of treatment can only prevent arthritis from moving to a graver stage; they cannot undo the damages that have already taken place.
Joint Replacement Surgery
In the X-ray image, if the bones are touching in any area, you have reached Stage 3 or Stage 4 of arthritis based on how much of the bones are touching. At this stage, surgery is the most efficient choice of treatment. At Stage 4, you must go for a total knee replacement. Some x-rays show a reduction in only the inner part of the knee joint; this is known as anteromedial arthritis. In these situations, you can opt for a partial knee replacement or Unicondylar Replacement Surgery.
Unicondylar Knee Replacement
Unicondylar Knee Replacement, also known as partial knee replacement replaces only the damaged portion of the knee. When your knee starts wearing out, the damage, generally, starts at the medial (inner) portion. If you are diagnosed at that stage, we can perform a surgery on that portion only.
How Is Unicondylar Knee Replacement Done?
In a Unicondylar Knee Replacement, the worn out area of the bone is scraped out and a smooth metal prosthetic is implanted in that area. The metal implant complements the decayed bone. As for the cartilage, a plastic (polyethene) is used that makes the movement of the implanted metal smooth. The rest of the healthy bone and cartilage are left intact.
After the surgery, the new implant and the rest of your natural bone can be maintained and preserved with conservative medical care.
Why Is Unicondylar Knee Replacement Better Than Total Knee Replacement?
Unicondylar Knee Replacement can only be done on patients where the damage is localised to the medial section of the knee and has NOT spread across the entire joint. This procedure only benefits the patients who fall under that criterion.
The candidature of unicondylar knee replacement has to be judged very carefully. Once your knee condition passes the candidature, you can benefit highly from this procedure.
The benefits of Unicondylar Knee Replacement are:
Less Invasion: In this procedure, the surgeons will not need to cut open the entire knee. They will only make a small cut in the affected area. This will prompt less surgical injury to the surrounding soft tissues.
Less Surgical Complication: Every surgery will be associated with some forms of surgical ‘downs’ like blood loss, infection etc. But in this procedure, since you have a smaller incision, the chances of such risks are much less. Hence, post-surgery, you will not feel as tired as you might feel after a total knee replacement.
Quicker Recovery: Again, because of a smaller incision, you can recover quicker and you can bounce back to your normal life faster.
Improves your range of motion. Unicondylar knee replacement rapidly improves mobility and you can feel less stiffness and pain. It increase strength in your knee and the surrounding area.
Preserves Natural Knee: When your surgeons perform a unicondylar knee replacement on you, they leave the healthy section of your knee untouched (as opposed to a total knee replacement where the entire, both the healthy and damaged section, is scraped off). This way, your natural tissue of the knee is preserved. Even if you have a smaller degree of arthritis in the other section of the knee, that section can be managed with traditional medicine.
Scope Of Extension: Now, say, that the healthy section of your knee has not responded well to conventional medicine. In that case, the partial replacement can be extended to a total knee replacement. Just because you have done a unicondylar replacement, it does not mean that you have lost out your chances of getting a total replacement, if required.
The scope of unicondylar knee replacement has been increasing with every new technique that comes out. Now, it has been proven that even obese people and sportspersons (or people with a high degree of physical activity) can opt for a partial knee replacement and get successful results.
However, you must remember that to avail the benefits of unicondylar knee replacement, you must seek treatment before arthritis spreads all over your knee in which case, you will only be able to take a total knee replacement.
If you are facing troublesome arthritis or any discomfort in your knee, you can approach our knee experts at Sunshine Hospitals. If you have any questions regarding any treatment or your condition, you can submit your query here.
About Sunshine Hospitals:
A Multi Super Speciality Institution, 500 bedded Sunshine Hospitals (Paradise Circle, Secunderabad and Gachibowli) is promoted by globally reputed Joint Replacement Surgeon Dr AV Gurava Reddy (Orthopedic Doctor) and like-minded associates who share the objective of making world-standard healthcare available, affordable and accessible to the common man. Sunshine has now become one of the best hospitals for many treatments including Orthopedic, Gastroenterology, Cardiology, Trauma and Neurology.