Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee is the most common type of OA and a common cause of disability. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to manage the symptoms of knee OA.
For the treatment of knee OA, your doctor may sometimes recommend a steroid injection into or around the joint. The pain relief is usually only temporary, and your doctor will limit the number of steroid injections that you can receive.
Another type of injection therapy is called visco-supplementation. This involves the injection of hyaluronic acid derivatives into the joint. Hyaluronic acid is a normal component of joint fluid. However, the response to hyaluronic acid injection, as with steroid injection, is variable and usually temporary.
Surgery is usually only offered for severe cases that have not responded to the other forms of therapy (see section on Osteoarthritis). Both the type of surgery and the decision for surgery are made following careful discussions between you and your doctor.
Some of the more common types of surgery include:
This is suitable for early OA of the knee, and is considered a minor procedure during which the orthopaedic specialist uses an ‘arthroscope’ to look inside the joint. This is a form of ‘keyhole surgery’. During the procedure, the surgeon will be able to clean up damaged portions of the joint, or stimulate repair in areas where the cartilage has been lost.
This procedure is suitable for younger patients (generally less than 50 years old) with limited OA of the knee. During this procedure, the bones around the joint are cut to allow the alignment of the joint to be corrected. Symptom relief can sometimes be achieved for up to 10 years following this procedure.
In late stages of OA, the joint has become so damaged that the best treatment is to replace the joint with an artificial one, which is typically made of a metal alloy together with a plastic component. The entire joint may be replaced (total joint replacement), or if OA is limited to only one part of the joint, then the surgeon may choose to only replace that part (unicompartmental/partial joint replacement).