Published on 12. February 2018

Preserve your own joint

If you have pain in the knee or hip, it becomes more severe and does not subside, then you should definitely seek the opinion of a specialist.

Although the days when 50-year-old correctional officer Ingo Elsner had enjoyed playing beach volleyball and riding his bike were long ago, his knee had been hurting severely for some time, especially during weight-bearing and twisting movements. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) confirmed the suspicion: meniscus damage.

Dr. Heiko Spank, head physician at the Clinic for Special Orthopedic Surgery and Trauma Surgery at Vivantes Auguste-Viktoria Hospital, advised his patient Ingo Elsner to have the meniscus reconstructed. "Preserving one's own joint has many advantages and should always be a priority, if at all possible," explains the specialist for knee, hip, cartilage and sports injuries, who sees the preservation and restoration of his patients' ability to move as an essential core task of his work.

Joint preservation or implant

"However, if the options for joint preservation have been exhausted and the decision has been made in favor of a knee or total hip endoprosthesis (TEP), then there are excellent alternatives in the field of modern endoprosthetics, in which implants replace the damaged joint in whole or in part," says Dr. Heiko Spank, referring to solutions that are adapted to the individual needs and necessity of the patient: "Gentle surgical techniques or individual implants enable optimal restoration of of the ability to mobilize and bear weight."

In addition to his work as chief physician, Dr. Heiko Spank is also head of the newly founded Department for Movement Surgery West. Here, a wide range of treatments is covered in close cooperation with the Clinic for Spine Surgery and the Clinic for Hand, Plastic and Aesthetic Surgery (both also in the AVK) as well as the Clinic for Trauma Surgery and Orthopedics (in the Vivantes Wenckebach Hospital).

Ingo Elsner was able to leave the clinic just three days after the operation. At home, he is now moving forward with some difficulty with the help of forearm crutches and an orthosis (see photos), a kind of splint designed to relieve and immobilize the knee joint. Physiotherapeutic measures support the healing process. Ingo Elsner is allowed to slowly increase the load on the knee joint after precise consultation; as a rule, the knee can be used again with slight restrictions after about six weeks. Then the outpatient rehab also begins with the training build-up. The amateur athlete remains calm. "In total, I will probably be out of action for around twelve weeks. But I have to take the time now, and it is foreseeable. In return, I've been able to preserve my knee joint, and that's a good feeling."

The meniscus

The meniscus of the knee joint is a fibrocartilage consisting of collagen fiber bundles. It has a stabilizing function between the femur and the tibia. When treating meniscal injuries, it is important to preserve as much meniscal tissue as possible. Meniscus refixation - where tissue is reattached - is a method of arthroscopic surgical treatment of acute meniscus damage. It enables reconstruction and almost complete preservation of the function of the meniscus tissue. A successful intervention leads to a good long-term prognosis for the patient.

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