“Knee replacement is the end-all of a natural disease process,” says Orthopedic Surgeon Patrick Denton. “Obviously, we want to maximize any conservative treatment before we take people to surgery.”
Not every bad knee needs surgery. The options your Orthopedic Specialist may try include medications, bracing, and physical therapy, among others.
Dr. Denton compares your knees to a car.
“If you have a little leak in your tire, we can put a bit of air in it and it’ll keep running,” he says. “For your knee, we can try medications, steroid injections or cortisone shots. If your car’s engine is running hot, we might add a couple quarts of oil to help lubricate the motor. Same with your knee. If the lubricating material is worn or gone, we can add some synthetic gel lubricant.
“But, when the steel treads are worn through the rubber,” says Dr. Denton, “it’s time to replace the tire. Same thing with the knee. When your ‘steel belts’ are showing – when the conservative treatments no longer reduce the pain or increase the ease of movement — it’s time to move to total knee joint replacement surgery.”
When a patient sees Dr. Denton, the diagnosis is relatively easy. “By the time I’ve taken the patient’s history and physical information, I have a 95% understanding of their condition, “says Dr. Denton. “We may get some X-rays or MRIs to confirm the diagnosis. Then, we’ll talk about your options and I let the patient decide what’s best for them.”
“Patients ask me to tell them when it’s time for knee joint replacement surgery,” notes Dr. Denton. “In fact, it’s usually the patient who tells me, ‘Dr. Denton, let’s do it. We’ve tried everything else.’”
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