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Surgical Options for Osteoarthritis

Surgical Options



The least invasive surgical procedure that may be effective in osteoarthritis is arthroscopy.  Its greatest strength is in treating mechanical symptoms such as unstable flaps of articular cartilage, loose fragments or very unstable meniscus tears.  It also has the potential to treat inflammatory symptoms as the pro-inflammatory molecules released from failing cartilage are washed out of the joint at the time of arthroscopy.  However, the surgical trauma created by the arthroscopic procedure creates an acute post-surgical inflammation.  In effect, acute inflammation is being created by the procedure that is attempting to alleviate chronic inflammation by removing pro-inflammatory cartilage debris from the joint.  Thus, it is very important to aggressively treat post-surgical inflammation in order to maximize the potential benefits from arthroscopy.  The use of arthroscopy in the management of osteoarthritis, particularly knee osteoarthritis has been controversial with studies both supporting and other studies questioning the effectiveness of arthroscopy.

Total knee replacement


Total knee replacement is a surgical procedure in which the osteoarthritic cartilage and adjacent underlying bone is removed and metal and plastic prostheses are cemented into place.  This is a thirty year old technology that revolutionized the management of arthritis.  However it is extremely invasive, hugely expensive and can have significant complications.  Multiple studies have documented that 20-30% of patients are dissatisfied with their outcome.  Importantly, recent data has indicates that total knee replacements have a higher rate of opioid use than any other surgery performed.  Disturbing data coming from the U.S. indicates a 15% chronic opioid addiction rate after total knee replacement.  Thus, although joint replacement has been life changing for many patients, it is the most expensive, invasive and riskiest treatment for managing osteoarthritis and is best used as a last resort.

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