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New Year, New Knee: Advances in Treating Arthritis Give Patients New Options

(New York, N.Y. January 2006). Arthritis is one of the most common causes of pain and disability. It often affects the knee and can severely affect quality of life. For mild to moderate arthritis, doctors often prescribe pain medication, gentle exercises or physical therapy. But for some patients, the pain persists and they have difficulty getting around.

Dr. Geoffrey Westrich, who has offices at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan and in Fresh Meadows, Queens, is conducting a study to see if combining two standard treatments for knee arthritis can give people a leg up on the disease. The study entails the injection of a substance called Hyalgan following arthroscopic surgery, which is performed through tiny incisions. Hyalgan is similar to the joint fluid found in normal knees and is used to reduce pain and improve mobility. The study is for people with mild to moderate arthritis.

"The goal is to relieve their pain and slow the progression of the disease," Dr. Westrich says. "The ideal candidate is someone with a painful knee for whom arthroscopic surgery has been recommended for a torn cartilage."

When a knee or hip is severely damaged by arthritis, total joint replacement is the often the best way for patients to get pain relief. In the past couple of years, advances in hip and knee replacement surgery have made it easier for people to get a leg up. "One of the most exciting advances is minimally invasive knee and hip replacement, which entails a much smaller incision than the standard operation and is easier on the patient," says Dr. Westrich. The 'mini-incision' procedure entails a three- or four-inch incision as opposed to 10 or 12 inches. "It means a quicker recovery, less pain, easier physical therapy and a better cosmetic result for most patients," Dr. Westrich says.

The term "custom-designed" usually brings to mind jewelry, clothing or kitchen cabinets. How about a custom-designed knee replacement? It's an option for patients whose arthritis is limited to just under their kneecap. Partial knee replacement is a much more limited procedure, and can offer significant pain relief for the right candidate. "We design a custom-made knee implant to replace onlythe arthritic area," says Dr. Westrich. "It can be an excellent option for people in their 40's and 50's who have this type of arthritis pain, but generally would not undergo a total knee replacement." Patients are usually able to walk the day after surgery.

Anyone who would like to make an appointment can call 1-877-KNEE-HIP.

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