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Alignment key to knee surgery success

ORLANDO, FLA -- Just as failing to perform an alignment on a car after installing a new tire will lead to uneven wear and tear and ultimately tire failure, performing knee surgery without taking into account the proper alignment of the leg bones above and below the joint could cause future problems including degenerative arthritis , according to a new study by Duke University Sports Medicine researchers.

Even a small "varus knee malalignment" -- more commonly known as bow-leggedness -- can lead to serious future problems for knee surgery patients, the researchers said. They added that physicians should at minimum closely monitor all young people who undergo reconstructive knee surgery to ensure that the leg bones stay in proper alignment, and in some cases surgically correct the bowleggedness. They see such strategy a possible preventative measure against the future development of severe arthritis of the knee.

"Even a relatively small malalignment in normal knees can cause dramatic alterations in the pressures within the knee joint, and this negative effect can be greatly magnified if the cartilage within the knee has been damaged," said Joseph Guettler, M.D., orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine fellow at Duke. "With early recognition and intervention of the malalignment, we can perhaps prevent the development of serious osteoarthritis from occurring in the future."

Guettler conducted a study whose results were prepared for presentation today (July 3, 2002) at the 28th annual meeting of the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM). The study received the 2002 Herodicus Award, given annually by Herodicus Society at the AOSSM meeting for the best paper submitted by an orthopedic resident or sports medicine fellow.

The Duke researchers sought to characterize the effects of malalignment on the knee joints of patients who had suffered damage to the cartilage within the knee. Specifically, they analyzed the pressures withi
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Contact: Richard Merritt
merri006@mc.duke.edu
919-684-4148
Duke University Medical Center
3-Jul-2002


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