The annual rate of total knee replacement surgery (TKR) has nearly doubled in the last two decades, especially in middle-aged patients. One of the reasons for this increase has been allowing patients with less severe symptoms of knee arthritis to undergo surgery.
A recent article looked at thousands of patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA) from two different studies in the U.S. Patients were monitored over years and it was found that knee replacement surgery did not significantly improve quality of life or the lifespan of patients. It was previously believed that knee replacement had a greater impact on quality of life.
The measurement used in the study is called quality-adjusted life years (QALY) and gives information about the value versus cost of a medical intervention such as a surgery. The research suggested better outcomes if knee replacement surgery is limited only to patients with the most severe knee arthritis, with about a 10% reduction in the lifetime likelihood of total knee replacement and a cost savings of about $7,000 per patient. It also mentions that if the cost of knee replacement decreases, it would be more effective in improving quality of life for patients that have slightly less severe knee arthritis.
The findings of this study support the importance of maintaining and prolonging the health and function of the knee joint through maintenance and healing before considering surgery as a last resort.
Physical therapy and exercise are also an important part of knee health and can improve your knees and provide better outcomes. In many patients with knee pain, exercises can help tone and strengthen the knee and leg muscles, decreasing the burden on the knee joint which unchecked can lead to substantial degradation warranting surgery.
At Reflex, we focus on non-surgical treatments that slow the rate of progression of the underlying degenerative process. Treatments include injections to target the chronic inflammation, and bracing systems to address bio-mechanical issues (proper alignment, increased muscle strength and joint support). Our patients are having success with platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatments, which can help avoid knee replacement surgery.
Patients report decreased pain and the ability to do activities previously limited or prohibited by their knee arthritis. Their positive outcomes are supported by our clinical data such as improvements in their pain scores and Reflex Knee Assessment Tool (RKAT) scores over time.