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What is joint preservation?

Joint preservation of the hip and knee is an innovative way to help relieve joint problems as naturally as possible. There are many joint preservation procedures available to treat common joint problems like hip dysplasia and early osteoarthritis, without requiring full replacement. The right treatment and surgery to preserve your hip and knee joints is based on a number of important factors, including your age, present health, health history, the extent and location of the injury and your history with other medications and treatments.

Diagnosis

If you are having any joint pain in your hip or your knee, it is important to seek medical attention. To diagnose your condition, your doctor will ask you a series of questions about your past and current health and perform a physical exam. To best determine the cause of your joint pain and find the right treatment, one of the following techniques will be used:

  • X-ray (radiograph)—This is typically the first technique used in any joint injury. It involves sending radiation through the affected area of the body. The bone then absorbs the radiation and provides doctors with a black and white image that will display any breaks or fractures. This is always done first to determine the health of the bones in the joint.
  • Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan)—A CAT scan combines X-ray technology with computer technology to generate a three-dimensional image of the bone and tissues in the area. This can give a better image of the problem.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)—This imaging procedure puts you in a vessel. Here, magnetic waves are moved around you, creating vibrations. The resonance from these vibrations is then turned into an image, which allows the doctor to see skeletal structures as well as blood vessels and tissues.
  • Arthroscopy—This procedure allows the doctor to make a small incision and place a camera inside the area of the injury to get more detail. This is usually done in conjunction with surgery, as it requires anesthesia.

Types of joint preservation

Nonsurgical treatment

In some instances, joint preservation of the hip and knee can be achieved without surgery. When the joints are stable enough to recover on their own without the risk of displacement, they can be rested for a certain period of time, allowing them to heal naturally. Braces may be used to support the knee joint. Crutches or a cane may also be used to help unload an affected joint as it heals.

Surgery

In most cases, joint preservation of the hip and knee requires surgery. The aim of most joint preservation procedures is to repair any bone damage and reconnect any broken bones or torn ligaments that may disrupt the proper function of the joint. Most joint preservations of the hip and knee are treated surgically through one of the following techniques:

  • Internal fixation—A procedure that uses metal plates, screws or pins to stabilize displaced bones so they can heal correctly. In many instances, the plates and rods are not surgically removed once the healing process is finished.
  • Arthroscopy—A procedure in which a scope is inserted through a small incision to see inside the injured area. Using this guidance, the doctor is able to clear out or repair damaged tissue, allowing the joint to heal properly.
  • Osteotomy—A procedure to realign the bones by strategically unloading the damaged or arthritic portion of the involved joint and placing the weight-bearing forces on the normal joint cartilage. This allows the joint to endure less stress, thereby reducing the symptoms of dysplasia or osteoarthritis.
  • Resurfacing—Instead of replacing the entire joint, a doctor will use metal caps to resurface the joints in the ball and socket areas. This is done primarily in hips. It has been proven effective because of its ability to reduce stress and friction on the joint muscles, reducing the symptoms of painful joint diseases.
  • Partial replacement—This is similar to resurfacing but instead requires implants of part of the joint area. These implants have been proven to be very successful at reducing pain and are used to help preserve the uninvolved or normal parts of the joint. This creates a functional joint without requiring a total replacement.

Our joint replacement orthopedists have the training, expertise and skill to help improve your quality of life.

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