To answer this question, we need to understand what arthritis is. Arthritis means ‘Inflammation of a joint’. There are many causes for arthritis including wear and tear,
injury, infection and immunity related inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Different types of arthritis can have different types of symptoms and signs. It is important to identify the specific type of arthritis one suffers from to deliver the correct type of treatment. So, it is imperative to consult a well-trained Orthopaedic surgeon early to make a proper diagnosis, as some arthritic conditions if identified early, can be treated by medicines and other therapies alone and will not require surgery.
In the days gone by, treatment of arthritis used to be treated with medications or surgery. Recent advances in the medical field has now given us many options in treating arthritis. Non-operative treatments for arthritis include medications which can be simple or potent painkillers, anti-inflammatory and disease modifying medications, anti-inflammatory steroid joint injections, disease modifying joint injections, physical & yoga based exercise therapies, Laser, IFT & other pain therapies. Choice of non-operative treatment depends on the specific type of arthritis and the severity of the problem.
Operative treatment used to be Total joint replacement alone, until very recently. Nowadays, we have developed many surgical techniques to deal with specific types of disease. Arthritis due to wear and tear is by far the commonest type of arthritis. Wear typically starts at one part of a joint and so it makes sense to repair that part of the joint and realigning the joint or replace only the part of the joint that is worn out, provided the arthritis is diagnosed early. This gives much better surgical outcome in general as the patient’s own joint is preserved by these techniques. These newer surgical techniques include cartilage replacement using patient’s own stem cells, cartilage and ligament reconstructions and repairs, bone realigning osteotomies and partial joint replacements. We recently conducted an International conference with live telecast of surgeries at our ASTRA Ortho n Spine Center to educate and train our surgeons in these techniques, which was very well received.
So, to conclude, Total joint replacement is not the only solution in the treatment of arthritis. It is certainly a tool in the management of arthritis, but it should be considered only when all other non-operative and above mentioned newer surgical techniques are not going to correct the problem. It is essential to seek advise from a surgeon who understands and considers all of these options.
-Dr S S Kumar
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