Introduction to Surgical Treatment Options for Osteoarthritis of the Knee

This section provides an overview of the surgical treatment options available to people with osteoarthritis of the knee. In order to better understand this section it is important to understand basic knee anatomy and the function of the knee.

The knee is the largest joint in the body and it is also one of the most complex. The knee joint is made up of four bones, which are connected by muscles, ligaments, and tendons. The femur is the large bone in the thigh. The tibia is the large shin bone. The fibula is the smaller shin bone, located next to the tibia. The patella, otherwise known as the knee cap, is the small bone in the front of the knee. It slides up and down in a groove in the femur (the femoral groove) as the knee bends and straightens.

X-ray of Knee with Osteoarthritis
Left Knee with OA
By James Heilman, MD (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL],
via Wikimedia Commons

The knee joint is surrounded by a special type of tissue called a capsule. The capsule has a thin lining called the synovium which produces “synovial fluid”. This fluid works with the articular cartilage of the knee to reduce friction and wear in the knee joint.

Articular cartilage is a smooth shiny material that covers the bones in the knee joint. There is articular cartilage anywhere that two bony surfaces come into contact with each other. In the knee, articular cartilage covers the ends of the femur, the femoral groove, the top of the tibia and the underside of the patella. Normal articular cartilage allows the knee bones to move easily and pain-free as the knee bends and straightens.

When articular cartilage is damaged by injury or diseases like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, joints can become stiff and painful. There are many different types of surgery available to people with osteoarthritis of the knee. These surgical options are usually considered only when other options have not been successful.

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