Yes. Although rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of the small joints, the knee is a common joint to get affected by rheumatoid arthritis.
DMARD’s (Disease modifying Anti-Rheumatoid Drugs) are usually sufficient to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis of all joints. These drugs have good anti-inflammatory action and controls the disease process. However, the drug combination needs dose-adjustment on a regular basis by an Orthopaedician/rheumatologist/physician to ensure that the disease stays well under control.
In acute active state of inflammation, the knee joint is very painful and does not respond to high doses of DMARD’s also. In such cases, the inflamed synovial tissue of the knee is debrided, shaved off and arthroscopic lavage also washes away the inflammatory mediators and gives good pain relief.
The proliferative inflamed synovium tends to eat off the cartilage (smooth layer lining the knee joint on either sides) and leads to early onset of secondary Osteoarthritis. Hence it needs to be removed when medical management does not seem to control the disease.