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What Is Iliotibial Band Surgery?

Iliotibial band surgery is necessary for some patients to be able to return to an active lifestyle.
Some patients who suffer an injury to the iliotibial band respond well to a combination of physical therapy and corticosteroid medications.
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  • Written By: Nicole Long
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2014
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Iliotibial band surgery is used as a last resort when dealing with iliotibial band injuries. The surgery involves releasing a portion of the iliotibial band over the knee joint to decrease inflammation and relieve pain. For some patients, this surgery is necessary to allow them to return to an active lifestyle.

The band of fascia that comes across the hip and connects with various structures of the knee and lower leg is referred to as the iliotibial band. This thick band extends to the patella, biceps femoris tendon, and tibia. Injury to this anatomical structure is a common injury seen by sports medicine physicians and athletic trainers.

Conservative treatment can typically help relieve the inflammation and pain associated with the iliotibial band. This often includes rest, ice, and medication to control the inflammation. Other options include physical therapy to help stretch the band and corticosteroid shots to help reduce long-lasting pain and swelling.

When conservative treatment fails, physicians may recommend iliotibial band surgery. The goals of surgery include relieving pressure and reducing pain. This is a last resort for those with little success in controlling the inflammation or pain associated with iliotibial band syndrome after following a prescribed course of conservative treatment.

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Preparation for iliotibial band surgery includes some general surgery restrictions. This includes abstaining from food and drink for a minimum of eight hours before the surgery. The surgery is done under general anesthesia and can be done as an arthroscopic procedure or through an incision that exposes the band.

During the iliotibial band surgery, surgeons remove a portion of the band. They typically remove a triangular-shaped piece and leave the knee flexed at a 30 degree angle throughout the surgery. Before closing any wounds, surgeons will move the knee through a series of range of motion tests to ensure enough of the band was removed to allow for optimal movement of the knee joint.

After surgery, patients must participate in a rehabilitation program. Rehabilitation typically lasts approximately three to seven weeks, and includes physical therapy and an icing regimen to limit swelling. Full participation will ensure a complete and satisfactory recovery.

Complications exist with iliotibial band surgery. As with any other surgery, infection is always a possibility. Fluid buildup, bleeding, and impingement can all occur after surgery. Some may notice a continued swelling or recurrent pain after surgery and will need to continue conservative treatment therapies, such as rest and pain relief medications, even after the surgery.

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