Can knee surgery prevent arthritis?

Knee arthritis, or worn knee cartilage, can be caused by many different factors. Though genetics influences the severity and age at which knee arthritis may occur, there are several factors that are modifiable which can prevent worsening symptoms of arthritis.

Often an injury to the knee can cause a small tear in the cartilage surface of the femur or tibia. If this torn cartilage breaks free it can become a "loose body." Think of this as having a pebble in your shoe. Not only is this painful, but could also damage the healthy areas of cartilage in the knee. An MRI can be used to evaluate for a loose body in the setting of a knee injury that won't get better. Knee arthroscopy can be used to remove any loose bodies and smooth any areas of torn cartilage. This helps to prevent further arthritis wear and tear in the knee.

Another common injury is a meniscus tear. The menisci are two C-shaped rings that sit between the femur and tibia and act to dissipate force at the knee joint. A torn meniscus can result in poor cushioning between the femur and tibia and result in knee arthritis. Advanced techniques have been developed in knee arthroscopy to repair torn menisci and restore the cushion effect of these structures of the knee (look at my video on the meniscus tear part of the website). Restoring the native meniscus structure can help prevent the development of knee arthritis.

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