The knee is the body’s largest joint. Its complexity makes it vulnerable to a variety of injuries.
The knee is made up of the lower end of the thighbone (femur), which rotates on the upper end of the shinbone (tibia), and the knee cap (patella), which slides in a groove on the end of the femur.
The knee contains large ligaments which connect bones and brace the joint against abnormal types of motion. The meniscus is a wedge of soft cartilage between the femur and tibia that cushions the knee and helps it absorb shocks.
Torn ligaments and cartilage are common knee injuries. Runners, cyclists, swimmers, step aerobics devotees, and football, basketball and volleyball players commonly fall victim to other knee injuries, including a variety of aches and pains related to the kneecap.
Orthopaedic surgeons use a variety of methods to treat the knee. Most treatment begins with R.I.C.E. – rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Seek attention from an orthopedic surgeon if pain continues, especially if you:
• Hear a popping noise and feel your knee give out at the time of injury
• Have severe pain
• Cannot move the knee
• Begin limping
• Have swelling at the injury site
Many knee injuries can be successfully treated without surgery, while others require surgery to correct.
When necessary, an orthopedist will perform arthroscopy, a type of surgery that takes a direct look at the inside of your knee joint.
The orthopedist makes a small opening in the knee and inserts an arthroscope, a tiny tube-like tool, into the joint. The arthroscope contains a lighted video camera at one end and is wired to a monitor that the surgeon watches while moving the scope to pinpoint the injury, often repairing the injury during the same procedure.
When used to treat ligament and meniscal tears and other types of serious knee injuries, arthroscopy decreases postoperative pain, risk of complications and recovery time.
Knee Replacement Surgery
You and your doctor may consider knee replacement surgery if you have a stiff, painful knee that makes it difficult to perform even the simplest of activities and other treatments are no longer working.
Minimally invasive surgery has revolutionized knee replacement surgery, requiring a much smaller incision, just 3 to 5 inches, versus the standard approach and incision. This less invasive approaches results in less pain, decreased recovery time and better motion due to less scar tissue formation.
The vast majority of people who undergo knee joint replacement surgery enjoy dramatic improvement. Once muscle strength is restored through physical therapy, knee joint replacement patients can often return to many activities that were previously restricted due to pain and decreased range of motion.
Knee surgical procedures have undergone a dramatic evolution in the last decade. Always seek an experienced orthopedic surgeon and together, determine the best treatment for your knee injuries and chronic conditions.