Osteotomy is a surgery performed to alleviate pain and delay the development of osteoarthritis in one side of the knee joint. It is ideal for younger, athletic patients who aren’t completely ready for a total knee replacement, and desire an active lifestyle for many years to come. This procedure can provide time until a knee replacement is generally required.
During a knee osteotomy, Dr. Hackett cuts and reshapes either the shinbone (tibia) or thighbone (femur), which relieves pressure on the damaged knee joint from early stages of osteoarthritis. The objective of the knee osteotomy is to transfer weight from the arthritic side of the knee to the healthier side, correct inadequate knee alignment, and extend proper function of the knee joint.
Osteoarthritis develops when the knee and leg bones do not line up properly, which puts stress on either the inner or outer side of the knee. If you experience these symptoms, you may be in the early stages of osteoarthritis of the knee:
- Pain or stiffness in the knee
- Grinding sensation when moving the knee
- Swelling of the knee
The procedure generally lasts about one to two hours. In most cases, osteotomy of the knee is performed on the tibia, or shinbone, to improve a “bowlegged” alignment, which occurs when too much stress is put on the inside of the knee. During the procedure, Dr. Hackett will remove a wedge of bone from the outside of the tibia, under the healthy side of the knee.
When Dr. Hackett closes the wedge, it properly straightens the leg, bringing the bones on the healthy side of the knee closer together and creating more space between the damaged bones on the arthritic side. Then Dr. Hackett will insert a plate and screws to hold the bones in place until it heals. This procedure allows the knee to carry your weight more evenly, which eases pressure and discomfort on the damaged side. Osteotomies of the thighbone are performed with a similar technique and is utilized for a “knock-kneed” alignment.
After the operation, you may be put in a knee brace or cast for protection as the new alignment heals. It is likely you’ll be on crutches for several weeks. Approximately 6 weeks after surgery, Dr. Hackett will see how well the osteotomy has healed and inform you when it is safe to put weight on your leg or start rehabilitation.
During rehabilitation, a physical therapist will guide you through exercises to restore your range of motion and increase your strength. These physical therapy programs will be customized to reach your optimal recovery. You may be able to resume full activities after 3 to 6 months, but recovery times vary from patient to patient dependent on many factors.
Even though many osteotomy patients may require a knee replacement in the future, this procedure is proven to be an effective way to save time and continue the sports and activities you enjoy.