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Smiling Gregg Watts in his motorcycle gear after life-changing knee surgery
By In-house Team, Circle Health Group

High tibial osteotomy (knee realignment): Greg Watts’ story

Greg Watts' adventurous lifestyle was put on hold when he developed arthritis in his knees, but treatment at The Cavell Hospital in Enfield got him back on his feet and embracing life again.

Meet Greg Watts

Greg Watts is an adventure-seeking professional helicopter pilot from Horkesley, near Colchester. A self-confessed "lover of life", Greg enjoys "anything that goes fast and does crazy things". He is also a builder of barn conversions and extensions and is passionate about anything related to civil engineering and machinery.

One of Greg's many hobbies is driving his motorcycle. He says: "riding a motorcycle is just freedom. The power of it - it's nothing like driving a car."

After years of driving his motorcycle, Greg began to experience weakness and reduced movement in his legs, which caused him a great deal of concern.

"I've lived a crazy life, and as the years went on, I started to feel my body wearing away. I knew something was more seriously wrong when I went to get off my motorcycle and nearly dropped it because my legs couldn't hold it. I knew I needed to get help." - Greg Watts

Being diagnosed with osteoarthritis

After seeking medical help, Greg discovered he had osteoarthritis, which was causing progressive pain and weakness in his legs. The condition was preventing him from living his adventurous lifestyle to the full, and he found it increasingly difficult to ride his motorcycle and tackle his building projects with gusto. Greg felt his freedom slipping away and knew he would likely need surgery to stop his symptoms from getting worse.

I've lived a crazy life, and as the years went on, I started to feel my body wearing away... I knew I needed to get help.

Greg Watts

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a joint pain condition that occurs when the smooth cartilage across the surface of your knee joint wears down over time. This can cause the bones in the joint to rub together, causing further damage.

You'll sometimes hear osteoarthritis referred to as wear and tear arthritis, and it's more common the older we get. The wear and tear can make your joints very painful and stiff and can really reduce your mobility. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis both in the UK and worldwide and it is the most common reason why people have knee surgery.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis vary from person to person. Some people can effectively manage their pain with more conservative treatment options, such as physiotherapy and medication. Greg's condition was more severe, and he needed surgery to repair the joint damage in his knees and restore his function and mobility.

Common symptoms of osteoarthrits include:

  • Pain and stiffness in your joint(s)
  • Swelling
  • Redness around your joint(s)
  • Tenderness around your joint(s)
  • Weakness around your joint(s)

Getting help at The Cavell Hospital in Enfield

Greg discovered The Cavell Hospital through a surgeon who had treated him years prior. He quickly met with Henry Atkinson, one of our orthopaedic consultants, who, after expertly considering Greg's condition, came up with a personalised treatment plan, which recommended that Greg have a type of knee realignment surgery called a left knee medial opening wedge high tibial osteotomy to straighten his tibias.

What is a medial opening wedge high tibial osteotomy?

This is a type of knee realignment surgery. The operation can be used to treat osteoarthrits in your knees, as well as lower extremity malalignment (this is when your knee is not aligned properly with your leg axis - a drawn line extending from the middle of your hip to the middle of your ankle). Your consultant is able to mark this line in order to determine whether you have lower extremity malalignment, which can cause stiffness and swelling, and a grinding, clicking, or catching sound in your knee.

Lower extremity malalignment is often directly caused by osteoarthrits because your bone breaks down and creates widespread degenerative changes, often leading to joint misalignment (when your bones are no longer located where they should be).

An osteotomy is a surgical procedure where some of a bone is cut away in order to reshape or realign your bones. A knee osteotomy is an operation that aims to realign the bones of your knee to reduce symptoms such as pain, stiffness and lack of mobility that have been caused by misalignment in your knee.

There are two main types of osteotomy that can be performed on your knee: high tibial osteotomy and femoral osteotomy. A high tibial osteotomy corrects a problem in your upper shin bone. A femoral osteotomy corrects a problem in your thigh bone.

During an opening wedge high tibial osteotomy, your consultant orthopaedic surgeon will carefully adjust the alignment of your tibia (shin bone) by either removing a wedge of bone or opening the cut, creating a gap, and realigning your joint. The new position is then secured with metal screws and a plate, which will hold the bones until they heal. The main aim of the surgery is to give you a more comfortable knee than the one you currently have.

The main advantage of an osteotomy is to help relieve the pain you currently feel in your knee. It corrects malalignment and helps preserve your knee joint. Knee realignment surgery can be highly successful. Around 75% of people will not need any further surgery within 10 years following an osteotomy.

In this video Gregg Watts talks about his journey with High Tibial Osteotomy

Cavell Hospital was a fantastic place for treatment. My nurses and physiotherapist were superb.

Greg Watts

Greg’s treatment was a huge success

Greg was impressed by how quickly he was seen for surgery after meeting with Henry for the first time, and he was extremely pleased with the way treatment helped restore mobility and flexibility in his knees.

"Cavell Hospital was a fantastic place for treatment. My nurses and physiotherapist were superb. I was able to have surgery within just a few weeks of meeting Henry for the first time, which was brilliant. After healing well from the operation, I'm back riding motorcycles even better than I was before." - Greg Watts

Greg is now back enjoying his adventurous lifestyle with fully restored function and mobility in his legs. He would recommend the procedure at The Cavell Hospital to anyone struggling with a similar problem.

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If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on this subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Circle Hospital.

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