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New early arthritis treatment technique used by UK hospital

Published on 22 February 2017
New early arthritis treatment technique used by UK hospital

A new surgical technique has been utilised by surgeons in Southampton as a means of treating early-stage knee arthritis.

The method, known as intramedullary high tibial osteotomy, has been performed by consultant knee and limb reconstruction surgeon Amir Ali Qureshi on three patients at Southampton General Hospital, and could represent a promising new option for those whose conditions have not yet advanced.

How the procedure works
The technique involves inserting a nail or rod into the tibia and lengthening it externally with a remote-controlled magnet to relieve pressure on the damaged side of the knee, delaying the need for partial or total replacement of the joint.

This system has been adapted from technology already in use for the treatment of lower limb length discrepancies caused by fractures and resulting surgery, and is currently being trialled across Europe to assess the clinical and cost effectiveness of the procedure.

The potential benefits
According to the surgeons, the new method offers a number of advantages over the current methods used to address early-stage knee arthritis.

Generally, these patients undergo a procedure to have a wedge opened up out of the tibia to straighten the leg and redistribute weight, with a plate affixed to hold it in place and allow a new section of bone to form in the gap. However, because the plate is fixed, any adjustments to the angle of the bone require further surgery - a problem that intramedullary high tibial osteotomy can overcome.

Mr Qureshi said: "This is potentially a fantastic development in our options for patients with early-stage arthritis of the knee, as it enables us to control the amount of opening throughout the course of treatment and can fine-tune as needed."

Arthritis Research UK's view
Natalie Carter, head of research liaison and evaluation at Arthritis Research UK, said: "There are over four million people in England affected by painful knee osteoarthritis and it is important to continue to find better treatments for all people affected. This research is promising, and in the future could offer ways to treat knee osteoarthritis even earlier.

"We are currently funding research at the University of Sheffield where scientists are looking at the risks of knee surgery and creating a risk prediction tool. This will enable people affected by knee osteoarthritis to make evidence-based choices about their treatment."

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