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OA and knee surgery

December 2, 2012

Knee surgery is highly traumatic, and can lead to osteoarthritis later in life.

One common risk factor for knee osteoarthritis is a history of severe knee injury.  The connection between injury and osteoarthritis is often associated with direct damage to the cartilage or bones of the knee.  This is not the only way that osteoarthritis can develop after injury.  Any trauma to the knee can lead to inflammation, which increases pressure in the joint space and lead to osteoarthritis.  Severe trauma often has secondary effects like inactivity and obesity, which are well-documented risk factors.

There is extensive evidence suggesting that injury to a ligament (like the ACL) can lead to osteoarthritis.  Only recently, however, have we begun to understand the connection between osteoarthritis and ACL reconstruction surgery.  Research at the University of Queensland examining the long term health of patients with ACL reconstruction surgeries found that, not only were they more likely to develop knee osteoarthritis, but they were also far more likely to need knee joint replacements.  In fact, people who underwent knee surgery developed osteaorthritis up to 15 years earlier than those who had not.

So remember that surgery is not a miracle cure.  It is a controlled application of extreme trauma.  It certainly has applications in which it can provide life-changing help, but it is not a blanket solution for all.  So before undergoing elective surgery, check all of your options, and try a non-invasive treatment first.

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