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Knee Surgery

Information About Types of Knee Surgery

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Updated October 24, 2011

Knee surgery is often used for the treatment of different conditions that can cause knee pain. While non-surgical treatments are often attempted for initial treatment, there are situations where knee surgery becomes the recommended or necessary treatment. Learn about different types of knee surgery and the conditions that are best treated with each.

1. Arthroscopy: Trimming a Torn Meniscus

knee surgery arthroscopy
Photo © Piotr Wziętek
Meniscectomy is official name of the surgery that involves the removal of a portion of the meniscus cartilage from the knee joint. The meniscus is a shock-absorbing wedge of cartilage that sits between the bone ends to provide cushioning and support. Smaller meniscus tears can usually be trimmed to relieve the symptoms of a torn meniscus.

2. Arthroscopy: Meniscus Repair

A meniscus repair is a surgical procedure done to repair the damaged meniscus. The meniscus repair can restore the normal anatomy of the knee, and has a better long-term prognosis when successful. However, the meniscus repair is a more significant surgery. The recovery is longer, and, because of limited blood supply to the meniscus, it is not always possible.

3. Arthroscopy: Lateral Release

The kneecap moves up and down the end of the thigh bone in a groove of cartilage. The kneecap can be pulled to the outside of this groove, or may even dislocate from the groove, causing pain with bending of the knee joint. A lateral release is performed to loosen the ligaments that pull the kneecap toward the outside of the groove.

4. Arthroscopy: Plica Excision

A plica is a remnant of tissue leftover from fetal development. In early development, your knee was divided into separate compartments. The dividers of the compartments are gradually lost over time, but some remnant remains. When this remnant tissue is more prominent, it is called a plica. When the plica is irritated, it is called plica syndrome. A plica resection is performed to remove this irritated tissue.

5. Arthroscopy: Meniscus Transplant

Meniscus transplantation consists of placing the meniscus from a donor patient into an individual who has had their meniscus removed. The ideal patient for a meniscus transplant is someone who had their meniscus removed, and subsequently begins to develop knee pain. Meniscus transplant is not performed for an acute meniscus tear, rather it is performed when removal of the entire meniscus has caused persistent pain in the knee.

6. ACL Reconstruction

The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is one of four major knee ligaments. The ACL is critical to knee stability, and people who injure their ACL often complain of symptoms of their knee giving-out from under them. Therefore, many patients who sustain an ACL tear opt to have surgical treatment of this injury.

7. Patellar/Quadriceps Tendon Repair

The patellar tendon and quadriceps tendon on the front of the knee joint can be injured, causing a loss of strength of leg extension. When the tendon is torn, patients have a difficult time straightening the knee joint. Treatment of a patellar tendon or quadriceps tendon rupture is nearly always a surgical repair.

8. Partial Knee Replacement

A partial knee replacement is an option for certain types of knee arthritis. When the cartilage loss is limited to a small portion of the knee joint, it may be possible to replace just the worn-out portion of the joint. However, in cases where the arthritis is more widespread, a total knee replacement will need to be performed.

9. Knee Replacement Surgery

knee surgery replacement
Image © Medical Multimedia Group
When a knee replacement is performed, the bone and cartilage on the end of the thigh bone (femur) and top of the shin bone (tibia) are removed. This is performed using precise instruments to create surfaces that can accommodate the implant perfectly. A metal and plastic knee replacement implant is then placed in to function as a new knee joint. Depending on the condition of the cartilage underneath the kneecap, the kneecap surface may also be replaced.
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