Hip and Knee Specialists are Facing an Increased Demand for Joint Surgery
Despite the exceptional resilience of the human body and the extraordinary strength of bone tissue in particular, life frequently succeeds in taking its toll on our joints, with the result that they can often become painful and lose some of their normal mobility. Jobs that involve constant physical effort, injuries sustained as the result of sporting activities, and the simple act of getting older all contribute to problems with our joints, most notably those of the shoulders, hips, and knees. Fortunately, the orthopaedic specialists of today have the benefit of advanced new materials and technology with which to help those affected to overcome both the pain and any attendant loss of mobility.
Orthopaedics and related surgery have, of course, long been important components of both a hospital’s in-patient and out-patient services. In practice, however, for the greater part of that lengthy history, the focus of the practitioner remained almost exclusively on the repair of fractures to various bones, and on treatments to correct skeletal anomalies such as curvature of the spine in children. In fact, the title of the discipline derives from the Greek words “orthos” and “paidion”, meaning “correct or straight”, and “child”, respectively.
Today specialists are called upon to replace damaged hip and knee joints on a regular basis, as well as to perform intricate repairs to these areas in cases where a prosthetic joint may not yet be necessary. Much of the work undertaken by the orthopaedic surgeon is exploratory in nature and designed to assess the damage by direct inspection of the joint, rather than relying purely on the findings of an R-ray image.
The exploratory technique, which is known as arthroscopy, makes use of a small “keyhole” incision through which a thin tube known as an endoscope can then be inserted. A camera fitted in its tip acts to relay real-time, colour images of any anomaly within a joint, such as the shoulder, elbow, wrist, ankle hip, and knee, via a closed-circuit TV link. This allows the attending specialist to decide upon the most appropriate intervention. In many cases, it will be possible for the surgeon to undertake a suitable reparative intervention at the time of the exploration. The result is a far less invasive option that will therefore require significantly less recovery time than when surgeons were obliged to adopt a more radical approach to perform what could turn out to be a relatively simple repair.
That said, there are times when a prosthetic joint may be the only effective means with which to repair a badly damaged joint. In such cases, an arthroscopic approach to hip and knee surgery is impractical, as the specialist will need to expose the various components of the damaged joint more, in order to secure the required prosthesis. Known as arthroplasty, this more invasive type of procedure will invariably require more anaesthesia, and will also necessitate a longer period of recovery.
Located in Life Wilgers Hospital, Pretoria Hip, Knee and Shoulder Surgeons operates under the leadership of Dr Jan De Vos, a specialist with many years of experience in arthroscopy, and major hip and knee surgery. A noted leader in this field, his practice not only enjoys referrals from all over South Africa, but also from a number of overseas countries.