Knee Specialists Are Now in Greater Demand Than Ever
Whether walking, riding a bicycle or, to a lesser extent, when driving a car, we rely on the free movement of the various joints in our lower body. In the event that anything should interfere with the mobility of any one of those joints, our ability to perform these tasks could be seriously compromised and, without attention, we could eventually develop a lifelong disability. Fortunately, knee specialists and others devoted to the care of our joints will normally be able to treat such problems and shield us from their more serious potential consequences.
Those who play sports like rugby, soccer, and tennis that involve a lot of running and sudden changes of direction are particularly susceptible to joint injuries such as sprains and strains. In practice, these can normally be treated very effectively by the family doctor or at a hospital’s accident and emergency department, although knee specialists will often be required to assume responsibility for the treatment of more serious cases.
The joint in question is one of the body’s most hardworking. We rely upon it to bear the full weight of our bodies when standing and walking, as well as to absorb the repeated impact caused by jogging or running. Its ability to continue doing so depends upon its internal integrity and that of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that are responsible for maintaining its stability under stress. In practice, one of the main reasons why knee specialists are in such great demand today is that our more sedentary, 21st-century lifestyle has led to weaknesses in these supporting structures that, in turn, have served to make the joint more vulnerable to trauma.
While rest and warm or cold compresses will often be quite sufficient to reduce any pain and swelling that may result from a minor trauma, there are occasions on which only some form of surgical intervention will provide the necessary relief. For example, there might be a tear in the meniscus or the anterior cruciate ligament for which only a qualified knee specialist will possess the skills and the experience required to perform the necessary surgical repairs.
Today, these procedures can be performed by means of keyhole surgery made possible following the introduction of the arthroscope. Inserted via a tiny incision, it provides an orthopaedic surgeon with a real-time, magnified view of the interior of a joint and the surrounding soft tissues, and allows him or her to insert and manipulate instruments through one or two, equally tiny additional incisions. The use of this minimally invasive technique eliminates the need for knee specialists to expose the entire joint, while also helping to reduce post-operative recovery time.
Another purpose for which the arthroscopic approach is now widely is the irrigation of a joint to remove fragments of bone or cartilage. In addition, it used to repair labral tears and rotator cuff injuries in the shoulder joint, while its earliest use was to confirm or establish a diagnosis when X-ray images alone may not be sufficiently conclusive.
Among the most common tasks that knee specialists are called upon to perform today, however, is a joint replacement, usually to counter the pain and loss of mobility caused by osteoarthritis. Due largely to sedentary living and the expanding waistlines that have become its consequence, this condition is now both on the increase and affecting younger subjects than in the past.
When short-term pain management with prescription analgesics and the longer-lasting relief from steroids cease to be effective, it is now possible for knee specialists to remove and replace either the femoral head, the head of the tibia, or both with a specially designed prosthesis that could add more than twenty years of active life to a damaged joint. This is a feat which has seen total and partial knee arthroplasty earn the distinction of being the most successful procedures in the long history of orthopaedics.