Scoping Out Solutions for Knee Joint ArthritisSurgical treatment for degenerative arthritis of the knee has a long history. In the 1940s, doctors started removing bone spurs, torn cartilage, and loose fragments in the joint. A new device, called an arthroscope, changed treatment in the 1970s.
The arthroscope allows doctors to look inside the knee. A slender hand-held tool with a tiny TV camera on the end is inserted into the joint. With this tool, doctors don't have to make a large cut to repair damage inside the joint. Over the last 30 years, doctors have refined the use of the arthroscope. It's been used for many joint conditions and problems.
Many studies have been done using arthroscopic surgery for knee joint arthritis. Doctors are still unsure if arthroscopic methods of treatment work for this condition. They've used it for procedures to scrape the joint smooth and flush it clean. The meniscus can also be removed using the arthroscope.
Other arthroscopic treatment for the arthritic knee includes repair of torn cartilage. The arthroscope has made it possible to use laser and radiofrequency energy to treat the knee. Through it all, the goals of surgical treatment haven't changed in all these years. The purpose of treatment is still to decrease pain and improve function.
Doctors report that arthroscopic surgery is very helpful for the treatment of many knee problems. However, it isn't a cure-all for everything. Local treatment doesn't prevent the arthritis from getting worse. It can only delay major operations like joint replacements by months to years. Doctors agree that more studies are needed to find the best uses of arthroscopic surgery for the arthritic knee.
Stephen A. Hunt, MD, et al. Arthroscopic Management of Osteoarthritis of the Knee. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. September/October 2002. Vol. 10. No. 5. Pp. 356-363.
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