Not every problem joint needs a hip or knee replacement. Many techniques are now available to preserve anatomy—called joint preservation procedures.

Arthroscopy is one of those procedures. Simple problems like meniscus (cartilage) tears in the knee are dealt with very effectively with knee arthroscopy. The normal knee joint has 2 peripheral rings of soft cartilage around each side of the joint. These cartilage rings are called meniscus cartilage. There is a medial meniscus (on the inside part of the knee) and a lateral meniscus (on the outside part of the knee).

When injured, the meniscus cartilage can tear, resulting in a flap of meniscus that catches inside the knee joint (not unlike a hangnail catches on objects). When this occurs, the problem can be easily treated by a relatively small, outpatient surgery called a knee arthroscopy. Knee arthroscopy involves 2 or 3 small (1/4 inch) incisions used to insert a small video camera into the knee joint to visualize the torn meniscus, and other instruments to trim off or repair the torn part of the meniscus (often like clipping off the hangnail). This type of surgery is extremely successful and allows patients to return to very active lifestyles without further problems in most cases. Recovery is usually quick, returning patients back to normal activities within a few days to a few weeks.

Other procedures are now available to restore or preserve worn surfaces. These include mosaicplasties, Carticel cartilage cell cultures, and osteochondral allografts.These advanced joint preservation treatment options are available at the Hip and Knee Center of Excellence.

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