For those suffering from age-related (degenerative) arthritis of the knee, a stage comes when all the reasonable non-operative options have been tried, and not worked. So, the option of surgery comes into the picture.
One common option suggested is knee replacement, and it being as intimidating as it sounds, it is natural that patients look for an alternative. Other non-operative options such as stem cell treatment, oil messages etc. with large claims and no scientific backing also come into consideration.
Scared of the so called ‘Total Knee Replacement’, which sounds like ‘total loss’ in cases of a damaged car, and thought of undergoing such an operation with all the negative stories from people, the patient takes the other path – that of avoiding the operation. They often fall for alternative treatment modalities with tall claims and no scientific validity, and ultimately land up in a situation where knee replacement, like it or not, remains the only option. Sometimes the surgery is delayed so much that even the best of surgeons cannot give a good result, and the fear of the patient actually ‘comes true’.
What are the options of Joint Replacement Surgery?
There is a recent advancement in medicine, where the scientific community is focusing on ‘joint preservation’ and not ‘replacement’ options. Some of these are non-surgical - such as physiotherapy, weight reduction, modification in lifestyle etc, but others are surgical, where effort is to keep the original joint going. Some of these options may be surgical, aimed at corrective surgery in early stages of arthritis, where one can see that if left to itself that particular joint is going to the path of damage, and hence future knee replacement.
These options could be key-hole surgery (arthroscopic surgery), which, if done at the right time, can halt the progress of the disease and may save one from knee replacement. Unfortunately, most patients do not have significant complaints at this stage and may ignore their problem. In some patients with deformed legs (bow legs), the progress of arthritis can be halted by correcting the alignment, what is called high tibial osteotomy (HTO).
The best approach, therefore, would be to see an orthopaedic specialist and get yourself evaluated whether you have some such issue which may be the reason for your knee to take the downhill course and whether some intervention can prevent it from reaching knee replacement stage. Even in cases, where joint is damaged beyond a certain level, it is not necessary that total replacement is the only option. There are options where only the damaged part of the knee is capped (partial replacement).
As a last resort, knee replacement is always an option in case it is ascertained that all compartments of the knee are damaged. Also, knee replacement remains a potent backup option in any case where partial replacement has been done in the past, and for some reason, it has not given desired results.