Arthritis is acute or chronic inflammation of a joint, often accompanied by pain and structural changes. There are three different types of arthritis:

  • Osteoarthritis: think “aging” arthritis
  • Post-traumatic: occurs after a fracture or injury
  • Inflammatory: occurs with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and psoriatic arthritis

As an orthopedic surgeon, my practice includes treating osteoarthritis in the knees and hips. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, impacting more than 30 million adults according to the CDC. It is often referred to as degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis. Similar to how a brake pad in a car wears out, the worn out parts of the knee or hip have to be replaced in order for full function.

Osteoarthritis increases after the age of 50. The common risk factors of osteoarthritis include:

  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Female
  • Repetitive stress/injury
  • Genetics
  • Race
  • Weak thigh muscles
  • Misshapen joints
  • Immobility

How is osteoarthritis evaluated?

When patients come into my office with symptoms of osteoarthritis, I review their medical history and perform a complete physical exam. I may recommend an X-ray to detect if osteoarthritis is visible in the joint.

Patients with osteoarthritis often share that they experience symptoms such as:

Pain in part of the knee vs. whole knee Usually in groin area, “C-shaped”
Grinding/grating Pain that feels sharp
Sharp, ache Pain that worsens with bending
Pain that radiates to calf or ankle region Limp
Stiffness, especially in the morning Stiffness, especially in the morning

How is osteoarthritis treated?

Treatment for osteoarthritis varies by each patient. I work closely with the patient to customize a plan that can include non-operative and operative options.

Non-operative (without surgery) includes exercise, therapy or bracing, medications and injections. Operative, or surgical, options can include a scope or “joint realignment,” partial joint replacement and total joint replacement.

When possible, I recommend non-operative options before considering surgery. When osteoarthritis can no longer be managed by non-surgical treatments, surgery may be the best treatment option to relieve pain and improve function.

What should you expect if surgery is recommended?

Surgery for osteoarthritis can be a major operation and requires evaluation, education and regular exercise.

  • Evaluation

    Before undergoing any procedure for osteoarthritis, I request a thorough general evaluation from your primary care team, including labwork and studies to assess your heart and lungs. I spend time reviewing risk factors that may place you at a higher risk for surgery, or after, and discuss ways to modify these risk factors to reduce complications.

  • Attend Joint Seminar

    We ask that patients attend a free joint seminar prior to surgery. The seminar will provide an overview of joint replacement and give you and your family an opportunity to ask questions.

  • Start Physical Therapy or Exercise Routine

    Exercising before your surgery will improve strength, range of motion and endurance to help set you up for the most successful recovery. Physical therapy may be recommended to help develop an exercise program to prepare your body for surgery.

Is outpatient surgery available?

Outpatient surgery can be an option for the right candidate for select knee and hip procedures. With outpatient surgery, patients return to their home the first day. In choosing outpatient surgery, patients must have no major medical issues and a strong home support system. At The Polyclinic, outpatient procedures can be performed at First Hill Surgery Center.

What about robotics?

Robotics can be an option for performing total joint replacements. Using a 3D virtual model that’s unique to your hip or knee, we can plan and perform joint replacement with more personalization and precision. Short-term research shows that using robotics can result in less pain, shorter hospital stays and increased mobility after surgery.

Managing Your Osteoarthritis

While many people can find relief from self-managing osteoarthritis through physical activity, weight loss and activity modification, you may need to consider seeing a specialist if pain continues. To schedule an appointment at The Polyclinic Orthopedics, please call 206-860-4431.


January 24, 2020 | by David A. Ibrahim MD