Treatment with nail and magnet 'can delay total knee replacement'
Doctors are using a new procedure to treat early-stage knee arthritis which involves extending a metal nail in the shin bone using a remote-controlled magnet.
Amir Ali Qureshi, a consultant knee and limb reconstruction surgeon at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, has performed intramedullary high tibial osteotomy (IM HTO) on three patients at Southampton General Hospital.
The procedure is being used as more younger patients are suffering from the condition and in a bid to decrease the need for full joint replacement operations.
The technique involves inserting a nail, or rod, into the tibia and lengthening it externally with a magnet to relieve pressure on the damaged side of the knee.
This enables clinicians to treat the condition and delay the need for partial or total replacements of the joint.
Arthritis of the joints is known as osteoarthritis, the most common form of the condition in the UK, and knee osteoarthritis specifically affects more than 4.7 million people.
In the most severe cases, it requires total replacement surgery, with around 80,000 carried out in England and Wales every year.
Currently, people with the early stages of the condition, affecting the inner part of the knee, which occurs when cartilage protecting the end of the thigh and shin bones wears out and causes "bowing", have a wedge opened up out of the tibia to straighten the leg and redistribute weight from the affected part of the knee.
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.
"We are seeing more younger people, from the age of 35 onwards, suffering knee pain and movement problems as a result of arthritis and all that can be done to delay a partial or total knee replacement needs to be done as they could go on to require another two or three repeat operations.
"While standard high tibial osteotomy using a plate enables us to avoid replacement surgery and prolong the life of the joint, the fact it is fixed means any issues with the angle of the bone requires further operations."