Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Knee News

Using Electrical Stimulation to Put Off Having a Total Knee Replacement

In this study, patients with moderate to severe osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee were treated with electrical stimulation (E-stim). The goal was to delay having a total knee replacement (TKR).

A battery operated E-stim home unit was used everyday for at least eight hours (usually at night while sleeping). Patients used the device for 12-month periods for up to four years.

A second group of patients who had a TKR and no electrical current were used as a comparison (control) group. Patients in both groups were matched by age, gender, and weight. Pain and function were used as measures of results.

Patients in the E-stim group were able to put off (defer) having a knee replacement for up to four years. The first year, 83 per cent deferred TKR. The second year, 75 per cent still had not had a TKR. By the end of the four years, 60 percent had not had the surgery.

The comparison group did not do as well. By the end of the first year, only 67 per cent could put off having a TKR. By the end of the fourth year, this figure was down to only 35 per cent who had not been given a TKR.

The authors conclude E-stim can help patients delay TKR surgery. At the same time, pain and function can be improved. E-stim helps regulate cartilage biochemistry at the cellular level. A strong electrical field influences ion movement in joint fluid and signals the cartilage to repair itself.

The best candidates for this treatment may be adults too young for a TKR, the frail elderly who can't have surgery at all, and obese patients.


Michael A. Mont, MD, et al. Pulsed Electrical Stimulation to Defer TKA in Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis. In Orthopedics. October 2006. Vol. 29. No. 10. Pp. 887-892.


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