RESEARCH: Surgeons in Southampton have pioneered an operation to repair damaged knees without the need for a total replacement – halving recovery times.

The technique, known as bicompartmental knee resurfacing, involves replacing only the areas of cartilage affected by arthritis and avoids removal of the ligaments – enabling more natural movement immediately after surgery.

Traditional replacement surgery to treat arthritis requires a large incision, removal of all four ligaments and full replacement of the joint regardless of the extent of damage.

However with resurfacing only the ligament on the inside of the knee and the kneecap are affected. Damaged cartilage is removed and replaced it with plastic or alloy metal implants.

The procedure is performed under general anaesthetic and takes around an hour. Patients leave hospital after three days – less than half the time it takes after total replacement – and without crutches, which would be required for up to six weeks following full surgery.

Professor David Barrett, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Southampton General Hospital, was the first in the UK to perform the procedure.

He said the early intervention gave patients a chance to extend the lifespan of their knee. He said: “With increasing numbers of people in their 40s and 50s needing treatment, we are able to offer an alternative which extends the lifespan of their knee and allows them to make a quick return to daily and sporting activities – with the option of total replacement further down the line if required.”

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