Subchondroplasty: An Alternative to Knee Replacement Surgery


According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, over the next 20 years, knee replacement surgeries are expected to grow by 673 percent.
What if you could put off knee replacement surgery? With an innovative, minimally invasive procedure called Subchrondroplasty, or SCP, you may be able to preserve your knee joint a little longer.

Dr. Forest T. Heis, an affiliated surgeon with OrthoCincy Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine who practices at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, explains, “Knee replacement surgery is a treatment to relieve pain caused by osteoarthritis. Some people have subchondral bone marrow lesions, or micro-fractures, that develop in the knee joint in addition to osteoarthritis.”

SCP is an arthroscopic procedure to treat the micro-fractures and help relieve knee pain. During the procedure, the surgeon uses a needle filled with a porous bone substitute material to fill the cracks and mimic the strength of natural bone. The material also encourages new bone growth to strengthen the joint even further.

Am I a Candidate for SCP?

Dr. Heis says, “People with osteoarthritis and micro-fractures in the bone have four times the risk of needing a knee replacement than people with arthritis alone. But not everyone is prepared to have a knee replacement. SCP provides another treatment option.”

If you suffer from knee pain and an X-ray shows arthritis, doctors will start your treatment with ice, elevation, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. If your knee pain persists, you should have an MRI to show any other possible source of knee pain. If the MRI shows micro-fractures, SCP may be a treatment option for you. You may be too young for a knee replacement, aren’t medically a candidate, or you want to keep your native knee as long as possible.

Benefits of SCP

SCP is shown to have benefits up to five years after the procedure. Dr. Heis says, “Studies are showing us 80 percent of people don’t need a knee replacement in the first two years. Five-year studies are showing 50-60 percent success rates. The best news—it doesn’t limit future care options, including a knee replacement surgery.”

Benefits include:

  • Decreases knee pain.
  • Less complications and a less invasive procedure than knee replacement.
  • Keep your native knee.
  • Outpatient procedure.
  • Walking immediately after the procedure.
  • Improvement in as little as one week.

For people with severe arthritis that only want one procedure to resolve joint pain, knee replacement may be the best option. Dr. Heis says, “SCP is an alternative for people who want to try to avoid or delay knee replacement surgery.”

Dr. Heis is the leading provider of SCP in greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. If you are interested in learning more about SCP, would like to schedule an appointment or get a second opinion, please call our affiliated orthopaedic surgeons from OrthoCincy Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine at (859) 301-BONE (2663).