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Osteoarthritis Health Center

Surgery for Osteoarthritis Joint Pain

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Osteotomy for Joint Pain Relief continued...

Using a 4- to 5-inch incision for an osteotomy, the surgeon removes a small wedge of your shinbone from below the knee. This lets the shinbone and thighbone bend away from the damaged cartilage. It also helps keep damaged knee and shinbone surfaces from rubbing against each other.

After the surgery, you'll spend at least two hours in the recovery room. Most people who have osteotomy spend two to four days recovering in the hospital.

Recovery From an Osteotomy

The knee will be bandaged and iced after an osteotomy. It's common to have night sweats and/or a fever of up to 101F. You'll receive pain medicine either by mouth or intravenously. At home, be sure to take your pain medication as directed.

You may have a lot of pain at first. You'll be given pain medicine, either orally or through an IV (intravenous) line, as well as instructions as to what to do over the next couple of days.

As soon as possible, while still in bed, expect to begin bending and extending your leg to keep it from stiffening. This may be done using a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine.

Once the incision closes (in about six days), you may be fitted with a knee brace, or the surgeon may cast your knee for four to six weeks. Physical therapy can usually start six to eight weeks after the surgery.

Note: A procedure called hemicallotasis may be done as an alternative to knee osteotomy. The surgery involves cutting partway through the bone, then pinning an external frame to the knee to hold the bone apart to create a gap and allow the gap to be slowly widened by twists of the pins over time. This encourages new bone to grow into the gap.

Joint Fusion (Arthrodesis) for Joint Pain

Like osteotomy, joint fusion surgery may be done when joint replacement isn't an option. The osteoarthritis-involved bones are fused so they grow together to form one bone. Although the fused joint is not flexible, it's very stable. Arthrodesis is done to relieve pain in the spine and smaller joints -- such as the ankles, wrists, fingers, and thumbs.

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