What is an osteotomy of the knee?

Doctors perform an osteotomy, also known as surgical realignment, to change how the bones come together in your knees and legs. They may also do this surgery to repair a broken or dislocated bone. This can relieve pain and make moving around easier. That's because it can help your leg bones distribute your body weight evenly.

During surgical realignment, the doctor cuts the end of one of your knee or leg bones into a wedge shape. They then fit this wedge shape over the other bone in the joint or where the bones are broken. A metal plate with screws may hold the bone sections together while they heal. You might also have a bone graft implanted at the procedure site. This is a small piece of bone tissue that helps your bones grow back together.

What to expect from an osteotomy

On the day of your surgical realignment, you go to the hospital. The staff gets you ready in the pre-op room. There, you change into a hospital gown and may take medications that keep you calm. When you're in the operating room, a doctor gives you general anesthesia. That means you sleep through the procedure. Surgical realignment takes about 90 minutes. After that, you wake up and go to the recovery room.

If you have surgery on your knee joint or a large break, you may be admitted to the hospital. You might need to stay for a few days, so the doctors and nurses can observe you and make sure your procedure went well. If you have kneecap realignment, you may be able to go home the same day after your anesthesia wears off. 

Depending on the joint where you had surgery, you may need to wear a brace. It keeps the joint still and helps the bones heal. You might also need to use crutches. You need to wear the brace for about two months and use crutches for up to three months. It takes about six months to finish healing after surgical realignment. Your doctor may recommend you start physical therapy to help the joint or leg move and heal.

Common conditions requiring an osteotomy

Doctors most often do surgical realignment on knees and kneecaps. However, this surgery also might be necessary on a broken femur, tibia or fibula — the large bones in your legs. Your doctor may choose to do surgical realignment to improve a variety of conditions, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Bone disorders
  • Fractures or breaks
  • Bowlegs and knock knees
  • Knee instability due to age or weight

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