joint replacement is a procedure that replaces an ailing or injured knee with a prosthesis, which's an artificial joint. The purpose of the prosthesis is to simulate the function of the knee, and they're made of plastics, metal alloys, and polymers.
Knee replacements have been performed since the 1960s, however, the latest technological advancements have occurred in the last five to ten years. Former surgical techniques involved the surgeon making the initial incision based upon the positioning of a rod that was placed from the beginning of the femur. Based on where the rod sat in the femur, this is where the initial incision was made. Currently, new advances have been introduced to replace these free hand cuts.
Minimally Invasive Surgical Techniques
In previous surgical techniques, the procedure involved cutting the quadriceps tendon or flipping the kneecap upside down to access it. Now, the procedure is performed using smaller incisions, which allow for a faster recovery time for patients. Most can resume their normal activities six weeks or so after surgery, as opposed to three months with the previous surgical techniques. Also leading to a faster recovery is the use of smaller instruments, which're more anatomically shaped for the knee. These instruments are made to fit the opening necessary for the procedure, rather than the opening fitting the instrument.
30-Year Knee Implant
The prevalence of knee replacement surgery has risen steadily over the years and more and more patients in their 50s are requiring this intervention to lead their active lifestyle. Previously, older knee implants only lasted 10 to 15 years and surgeons were reluctant to use them for patients under 60. A new 30-year knee implant has recently been cleared by the FDA for usage, providing better outcomes for younger patients. The leading case of knee replacement failure is wear of the prosthesis. A simulated wear test of this newer prosthesis showed an 81% reduction in wear.
Patient Specific Cutting Blocks
This newer technology requires a patient to receive an MRI or CT scan of the knee, which is then sent to the manufacturing company. Technicians at the company measure specific anatomical features of the knee and send a computerized surgical plan to the surgeon. Included in the plan is detailed information relating to the location of the bone cuts and the appropriate size implants. Upon the surgeon approving the plan, the manufacturer develops specialized cutting blocks for the patient, which allow for bone cuts to be made taking in mind the patient's specific anatomy. This allows for optimal alignment and fit. The goal of this surgical approach is to afford longer implant life, increased range of motion, and a quicker operation.
Patient Specific Implants
Patient specific implants are an emerging technology that's not yet widely available. The process is similar to the cutting blocks, but in this case, a knee replacement implant is also manufactured to fit the patient's specific anatomy.
The rising number of patients requiring knee replacements has sparked an interest in the research and development of better implants. Newer prosthetics and surgical techniques afford patients better mobility, faster recovery, and a longer lasting implant. Patients facing a knee replacement procedure can feel more confident with their decision knowing that the health industry has had such a big focus on improving orthopedic treatments and surgical procedures.