Patients Should be Offered Bracing Before Surgery

Sourced from The Daily Mail-- One of the UK's top three daily newspapers.

Arthritis sufferers could be spared the ordeal of surgery thanks to an OA Knee brace that supports the knee, restoring movement and alleviating pain, even in severe cases.

The brace, made from lightweight plastic and soft fabric and uses strapping that exerts a gentle sideways pull, helping to align the joint.

A hinge that sits on the side of the knee takes some of the downward force, and the combined effect allows patients to carry out activities normally and more frequently.

Why you may want to consider this option:

A landmark study published earlier this year followed 63 patients who wore an unloading or offloading brace. All were awaiting total knee replacement (TKR) surgery.

The patients were followed up after eight years, and of those who wore their brace consistently for two years, 40 percent no longer felt they needed an operation.

NHS watchdog the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence now advises that all patients should be offered a brace as an option before surgery.

(The NHS stands for the National Health Service. It refers to the Government-funded medical and health care services that everyone living in the UK can use. While there is little to no out-of-pocket cost for treatment, citizens of the UK fund these services via taxation.)

In the study, patients wore the brace almost constantly for two years, then selectively during activities where they wanted extra support. Those who wore it for more than six months were half as likely to require surgery as those who wore it for under three months.

Knee surgeon Paul Lee, at the Princess Elizabeth Orthopaedic Centre, Exeter, and co-author of the study, says: 'Waiting lists for knee-replacement surgery are now often longer than a year.

Given the results in this study, there is no reason why patients shouldn't be given an unloading knee brace while they are waiting. It helps them return to work and live a normal life while waiting for surgery – and some will even avoid it entirely.'

He adds: 'The effect may be due to some kind of healing or retraining of the muscles.

Delaying knee surgery brings its own benefits. Mr Lee says: 'The earlier you have a foreign material in your body, the longer you're exposing yourself to a possible infection over time, and the greater the chance you'll require revision surgery at some point.'

Amit Chandratreya, a sports knee surgeon at Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, and co-author of the study, has been using unloading braces for his patients since 2007. He says: 'When patients use a brace, their gait and confidence improve, and the pain around the knee reduces dramatically, meaning far less medication is needed.'

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