Total Knee Replacement Surgery
Alternatives to Knee Replacement Surgery
Knee replacement is a major surgery, and should only be performed when absolutely necessary.
Explore Your Alternatives to Surgery
Knee surgery should never be your first option. In some instances, it’s possible to minimize your knee pain and problems through alternative treatments and approaches.
Click “next” to learn about less invasive means to ease knee pain.
Weight Loss and Exercise
Losing pounds may help you lose the pain. Every pound you lose equals approximately 4,800 pounds less that your knee has to bear for every mile you walk. One study found that shedding even 15 pounds can lead to dramatic improvements in comfort level and quality of life. Exercise can help you achieve your weight loss goal while strengthening your muscles and further reducing pain.
Working with a Physical Therapist
A physical therapist can design a regimen that helps you reduce pain and strengthen the key muscles that affect your knees. He or she can work with you to ensure that you’re performing exercises correctly. Your physical therapist can also supplement your treatment by applying ice and heat, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), ultrasound, and using other therapies that increase blood flow and stimulate muscles.
This ancient Chinese method uses sharp, thin needles to impact nerves and change the flow of energy within the body. Acupuncture has gained popularity in recent years as an alternative treatment for pain. Some studies show that acupuncture can dramatically reduce knee pain for certain individuals.
Prolotherapy is an approach that uses a dextrose solution injected into the ligament ortendon to increase the blood flow and supply of nutrients. The dextrose solutionis a sugar mixture, and is a non-pharmacological treatment that aims to stimulate the tissue so that it will repair itself. The therapy usually requires four to six treatments in the affected area along with periodicre-treatment. The effectiveness of this procedure isn’t clear—though some studies show that when it is used in conjunction with other therapies, it can be effective.
A surgeon may suggest arthroscopic surgery to remove bone fragments or repair tendons and cartilage inside the knee. An arthroscope is a type of camera that allows a surgeon to view the inside of your joint through a small incision. After making two to four incisions, the surgeon uses the arthroscope and specialized instruments to operate on the inside of your knee.The incisions are small, making this much less invasive than traditional surgery. In most instances, a patient goes home the same day as surgery. Within a week, crutches are no longer needed, and patients can drive and resume daily activities.
This experimental treatment uses bone marrow stem cells from the hip to help regenerate cartilage tissue in the knee. A small but growing number of doctors are turning to stem cell therapy as an alterative to knee replacement surgery. One hospital that relies on the procedure found that among 200 patients, two thirds reported greater than 50 percent pain relief and about 40 percent said they felt more than 75 percent relief after one to two years.
Individuals with a knee deformity or damage to only one side of the knee may benefit from an osteotomy procedure, which shifts the weight-bearing load off the damaged area of the knee. However, relatively few patients are ideal candidates for the procedure. Knee osteotomy is frequently used for younger patients with limited knee damage.
Weigh Your Options
It’s important to consider all your options and explore alternatives to knee replacement surgery before submitting to it. However, if you’ve exhausted your options or your surgeon feels that your knee requires a total or partial replacement, then it’s wise to discuss the procedure with your doctor. Delaying necessary surgery can cause additional long-term problems.
Knee Injections (Hyaluronic Acid)
Knee injections of hyaluronic acid lubricate the knee and act as a shock absorber. They help the cartilage and bone tissues to slide more smoothly in the joint. When effective, the technique helps reduce pain and improve knee mobility. Potential side effects include additional swelling and pain and an allergic reaction for those who have an existing allergy to eggs or poultry.
Medication or Cortisone Shots
Medication, including over-the-counter pain relievers and topical creams with Lidocaine or Marcaine (numbing agents), may help control your knee pain. Your doctor might also recommend an injection of either steroids or cortisone. The injected steroids are administered at the site of inflammation, and mimic naturally occurring hormones in your body. Cortisone injections usually work to relieve pain within a few days and last several weeks. Side effects include: temporary increased pain, whitening of the skin, allergy, and infection.