Early Intervention – Key to Healthy Knees
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common type of arthritis in which there is a gradual loss of cartilage from the joints, most often in the hands, knees, hips, and spine. There are a number of risk factors, including natural aging, obesity, and participating in certain sports, like boxing, cycling, gymnastics, ballet dancing, soccer and rugby. It is a chronic condition that gradually worsens over time; however, there are several measures that may slow its progression and control symptoms. Dr Terence Chan, knee surgeon at Matilda International Hospital, is here to talk about osteoarthritis of the knees, particularly among the younger population.
Knee injuries involving the anterior cruciate ligament or meniscus, if not properly treated, can cause arthritis, especially if one ignores the condition, remains very active, and ‘plays through’ the symptoms. Once arthritis is established, the condition cannot be ‘cured’. “A 25-year-old footballer has osteoarthritis because an injury five years ago was not properly treated. There is very little that doctors can do for him now - his knee is too far gone.” says Dr Chan. Therefore, it is very important to have proper treatment. Ignoring the pain, thinking it will “go away” just won’t do,” he continued.
First line treatment of arthritis
Wearing soft sole shoes can significantly ease the condition. Meanwhile, weight loss is a definite way for overweight people to reduce the strain to the knees. Avoiding high impact activities also helps. Dr Chan said, “The key is to maintain some form of appropriate regular activity to keep other health risks such as diabetes, heart attack or stroke, at bay. One can also try a food supplement, glucosamine, to see if it helps to relieve discomfort from arthritis. Injections of ‘viscosupplements’ that lubricate the joint can also be helpful for people who suffer from minor knee arthritis.”
Biological Knee Replacement
In some young people with significant knee damage, Dr Chan will treat the condition with a ‘biological knee replacement’ which is a procedure that involves reconstructing torn ligaments, repairing or replacing damaged meniscal cartilages and sometimes polishing and realigning the bones. “It is an intricate undertaking. But still, it is much easier to treat the injuries early, before secondary damage sets in,” he said.
Unicompartmental Knee Replacement for younger patients
If a younger patient needs a knee replacement due to arthritis, the Unicompartmental Knee Replacement is often a good option. Only the most damaged part of the knee is replaced. Most patients can walk with a stick in just a few days, and return to daily activities within a few weeks.
Total Knee Replacement
For patients with more symptomatic arthritis i.e. painful knee joint with poor function, a Total Knee Replacement may be the only option. “The surgery will eliminate the pain by replacing the worn out knee with a new artificial joint and allows the patient to return to fairly normal life. However, the implants eventually wear out, so it is better to save one’s own knee than have an artificial one,” said Dr Chan.
Surgery of the knee is one of many orthpaedic procedures available at the Matilda International Hospital (MIH). To find out more about MIH’s Centres of Excellence specialties, please visit www.matilda.org.