As we age, there are some complaints and maladies we've come to expect: reading glasses, gray hairs, creaky joints and hearing aids, to name a few. Often these are minor grievances; the normal changes that tell us our body is ready to slow down.
But when it comes to osteoarthritis a disease that causes our joints to breakdown over time the pain is often anything but minor. The knee joint is one the most common places to experience this degeneration; more than one-third of Americans over 45 suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Traditionally, treatment of osteoarthritis can include physical therapy, medication and, eventually, total replacement of the affected joint. While minimally invasive technologies have drastically improved recovery time and post-surgery pain, a total knee replacement is still a major decision one most patients would rather avoid.
That's where a new procedure called Subchondroplasty® may be able to help. If you have experienced knee pain for more than three months; seen little benefit from NSAID pain relievers, knee braces or physical therapy; or your symptoms returned after an arthroscopy, you may have bone defects known as bone marrow lesions. These defects which can only be seen on MRI are present in about 71 percent of osteoarthritis sufferers, according to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Rheumatology.
On MRI, these lesions are marked by inflammation in the knee joint, where the body is trying to heal microscopic fractures in the subchondral bone (i.e. the bone beneath your knee cartilage). During Subchondroplasty®, an orthopedic surgeon will inject bone substitute material into the knee, where it fills in the fractures and promotes the growth of healthy bone tissue.
Because this procedure stems the weakening of the subchondral bone, it's been shown to reduce pain and inflammation and, in some patients, decrease the need for a total knee replacement in future. In a case study published in the American Journal of Orthopedics, about 80 percent of patients saw positive results after undergoing Subchondroplasty®.
This procedure is minimally invasive and typically occurs in an outpatient setting; many patients return home the same day. You'll likely use crutches for one to two weeks to minimize weight-bearing on the affected leg, and your surgeon may recommend physical therapy to increase strength and mobility in your knee joint.
If persistent knee pain from osteoarthritis is affecting your everyday life, consider talking to your doctor about the possibility of bone marrow lesions and whether Subchondroplasty® is right for you.