Shrinkage Treatments: A Hot New Procedure in Knee SurgeryTechnology using heat has made it possible to tighten injured joints. Heat shortens the tissue that holds the joint together. When heated tissue cools down, it contracts and tightens. This is called thermal shrinkage.
Radiofrequency is a new way to apply heat without damaging the joint. It has been used successfully on the shoulder. Now doctors are trying it on the knee.
When the ligaments holding the joint together are torn or stretched, the joint can become loose. This condition is called joint laxity. In the knee, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is most often affected. Surgery may be needed to repair or replace the ligament.
Doctors have tried using radiofrequency treatment on patients with ACL laxity. The new heat treatment has not been successful for most patients with knee problems. Although the heat can shrink the ACL, the ligament must have good blood supply to heal. In the case of old injuries or ligaments that have already been operated on, there isn't enough blood for healing to occur.
Heat is being studied as a way to treat ACL injuries. This treatment may be useful for new knee injuries. However, it is not as helpful for patients with old knee injuries or those that have had a past knee surgery.
Thomas R. Carter, MD, et al. Radiofrequency Electrothermal Shrinkage of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. March/April 2002. Vol. 30. No. 2. Pp. 221-226.
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