Healthy Living: Improvements in joint replacement surgeries
In the U.S., more people are getting joints replaced at a younger age. But thanks to new surgery, partial knee replacements are getting a better fit. Marcie Fraser reports.
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“They don't want to be told by their surgeon ‘you're not old enough.’ They don't want to be told they can't go back to walking, hiking, tennis, golfing,” said Dr. Jonathan Gainor, an orthopedic surgeon.
Knees are one of the most common joints replaced. While the prosthetics have changed just a bit, it's the technique overall that has changed the most. A surgeon’s job is to make a joint replacement feel as natural and comfortable as possible. In order for orthopedic surgeon Dr. Gainor to get this partial knee 'fit' more precise, he goes back to nature.
“I have a device which will give me a real time measurement as I look at it and know that I have made it into the appropriate range of tension,” said Dr. Gainor.
It’s called’ tissue guided surgery’ for partial knee replacements. In a healthy knee, the ACL and MCL tendons are the perfect length to fit your knee. But when the cartilage and bone wear down because of arthritis, it causes the tendons to get loose, making it difficult to know what size prosthetic to use. But now, by using a spring loaded device, it’s easier.
“By putting the device in there, that fills that gap, it's now stretched everything back out. And as I take the knee through the bend and straightening, those ligaments change their tension throughout that arch of motion,” said Dr. Gainor.
The ligaments are precisely extended.
“It does not stretch them but re-tensions them back to where they were before arthritis took away that joint space and shrunk it down,” said Dr. Gainor.
The prosthetic is then placed in part of the knee. The benefits are many.
“Smaller incision, less muscle damage, faster recovery,” said Dr. Gainor.
Ten percent of the patients who go in for a partial knee replacement are not candidates, and the reasons vary.
“You need to have an ACL, so patients who have an ACL that is torn are not candidates. If they are younger patient, we can do an ACL repair and the partial knee at the same time,” said Dr. Gainor.