Osteotomy surgery is a very common procedure for someone who has early stage osteoarthritis and has damaged one side of the knee joint. This surgery can preserve a person’s own knee anatomy, thus delaying the need for a joint replacement for many years.
How Does Osteoarthritis Affect the Knee?
When people suffer from osteoarthritis in the knee, the bones in that knee and leg will not line up. Therefore, when they walk, they put more stress on the inner or outer side of the knee. This type of extra pressure can cause the smooth cartilage protecting the bones to wear away, and eventually, the knee will become stiff.
What Are the Three Goals of Osteotomy Surgery?
A knee osteotomy has three main goals:
Prolong the life of the knee joint
Correct poor knee alignment
Transfer weight-bearing to a healthier part of the knee as patient stands or walks
What is the Knee Osteotomy Surgery Process?
During the surgery, a piece of bone is removed from the outside of the tibia. It would be part of the bone that is located under the healthy side of the knee. The surgeon then closes the wedge, which straightens the leg. When this is done, the bones on the healthy side of the knee are closer to the joint, and there is more space between the bones on the arthritic side of the knee. This allows the patient to carry his or her weight evenly, reducing the amount of pressure placed on the painful side.
Who is a Good Candidate for Osteotomy Surgery?
The best candidate for this procedure is someone between 40 and 60 years old and of a healthy weight. In order to be a candidate, the individual should have pain on only one side of the knee, and no pain at all under the kneecap. The individual should also be able to fully straighten the knee and be able to bend it to at least 90 degrees. When a person is a good candidate for this surgery, the pain should only be brought on when the person is active or has been standing for long periods of time. Unfortunately, patients with rheumatoid arthritis would not be good candidates.
Before and After Surgery
Most people are admitted to the hospital for the procedure for 2 to 3 days. The procedure itself takes just 1 to 2 hours. However, the patient would remain in the hospital to be monitored and given pain medication. The patient is often put in a cast or given a leg brace to allow the bones to heal properly. Six weeks after the surgery, the patient would see the surgeon for x-rays to make sure everything is healing right. If everything checks out, the patient begins physical therapy, where he or she starts doing exercises to restore the strength and range of motion in the knee. The patient would be ready to resume regular activities between 3 and 6 months after the surgery.