Ask Dr. Hansen: What Are The Surgical Options For Knee Pain?

Often, knee pain can be controlled with nonsurgical treatment. When these treatments fail to manage pain, Dr. Hansen explains the available surgical options.

Knee pain surgery

Our knees literally carry us through our days. When knee joints are injured or suffer wear and tear over the years, our knees may not carry us quite so easily—or painlessly. Summit Orthopedics’ knee specialists have many nonsurgical treatment options to provide relief to achy knees. When these treatments fail to deliver relief, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Dane Hansen explains the common knee pain surgery options available.

Knee Arthroscopy Surgery

“When joint problems don’t resolve under conservative care, two types of knee pain surgeries are available,” explains Dr. Hansen. “We can treat the knee with arthroscopy, an approach that uses small incisions and special tools to repair the damaged knee joint. These minimally invasive arthroscopic treatments utilize tubelike endoscopes, inserted through small incisions in the skin. Using sophisticated cameras and special tools, the surgeon repairs and preserves the function of existing ligaments and cartilage in the knee.”

Arthroscopic surgeries can treat several conditions, including ligament tears and some mild early arthritis damage. “Although arthroscopic surgery is sometimes used to repair cartilage tears, serious cartilage damage and advanced arthritis in the joint is difficult to repair,” Dr. Hansen acknowledges. “This more serious joint damage usually requires an operation to replace the joint.”

Total Knee Replacement Surgery

Total knee replacement surgery removes the damaged joint and replaces it with an artificial joint. Depending on how much of the knee is damaged, a partial—as opposed to a total—joint replacement is a possible option.

“There’s a perception that total joint surgery cuts out the entire joint and replaces it with a large mechanical knee,” says Dr. Hansen, “but the reality is far less dramatic. Think of a total joint procedure as a resurfacing-type procedure. These surgeries remove only the damaged cartilage and bone from the joint and replace it with smooth metal and plastic pieces that function as a new joint surface—with minimal damage to the surrounding ligaments, muscles, and soft tissues.”

Most knee replacement surgeries use bone cement to attach the metal pieces to underlying bone. Because the size of joints varies with each patient, knee replacements come in multiple sizes, with a selection of plastic spacers to ensure that the new joint has a tight fit. Initial sizing decisions are made prior to surgery using X-rays. Final adjustments are made during the surgery to maintain correct leg length and the right amount of tension on the muscles and ligaments around the joint. “Joint replacement surgery is an extremely valuable option for patients with severe arthritis that is not managed by conservative treatments,” says Dr. Hansen.

Evaluating your knee pain surgery options

“I encourage my patients to assess treatment choices based on many factors, including: symptoms, lifestyle expectations, activity level, and nutrition. At Summit, our entire team works with you to answer questions and give you the confidence to make the treatment choice that is best for your objectives.” Whether conservative solutions or knee pain surgery is right for you, your Summit specialist will come alongside you to give the information you need to make a good decision.

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  • Dane Hansen, D.O.

    “Arthritis patients have high expectations for their activity level. With advanced training in minimally invasive surgical techniques and quick-recovery joint replacement, I strive to help my patients return to their fully active lifestyle as quickly as possible.”

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