Is Surgery the Best Treatment Option for Your Osteoarthritis of the Knee?

Whether you've had multiple knee surgeries stemming from a high school or college sports injury or are simply beginning to experience some of the painful joint twinges that often come with aging, you may be shocked to discover that the pain and stiffness you've been experiencing is osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease that can eventually rob you of the ability to walk. Fortunately, there are now a number of different treatment methods that can slow the onset of osteoarthritis and minimize the amount of pain and discomfort you experience. Read on to learn more about the treatment options for this condition that won't require knee replacement or other invasive methods that may cause more problems than they solve.

Stem-cell injections

There are several different types of stem-cell injections that—while still in the early stages of research and implementation—can help regenerate cartilage and minimize the bone-on-bone impact that can exacerbate pain. These stem cells can be derived from placental tissue or amniotic fluid donated from new mothers or, in some cases, even your own fat cells. After the stem cells are cleaned and injected into your knee, they'll quickly get to work, multiplying to fill in gaps where the bones can grind together. After a few months, you'll likely notice a decrease in the amount of pain and stiffness you feel, even when first waking up in the morning or after a hard day on your feet. 

Stem-cell injections are not available at all hospitals, and you may find that some travel is required. These injections are also deemed "experimental" by many health-insurance policies, so you may be required to pay out of pocket. However, if effective, this treatment is much less invasive and expensive than a knee replacement. 

Robot-assisted surgery

Much of the pain of osteoarthritis can be caused by the lack of cartilage cushion between the tibia and fibula, patella, and femur. As you walk or engage in other high-impact activity, these bones crash together and immediately send pain signals to the surrounding nerves; over time, the colliding surfaces can even flatten to create bone spurs. Orthoscopic surgery assisted by a tiny pair of robotic (and video-equipped) pincers can help your surgeon remove any bone spurs that have formed and rearrange the remaining cartilage so that it's in a better position to cushion the impact of daily living. 

Because this robot-assisted surgery requires only a few small incisions, it can be performed on an outpatient basis and even (in some cases) using only local anesthesia or "twilight sleep" rather than general anesthesia. This can make the process much simpler and safer.