More than 700,000 Americans have knee replacement surgery every year to eliminate chronic pain from worn out joints, and doctors say that number will skyrocket over the next decade. Now, a new two-pronged approach is helping patients get back on their feet faster than ever before.
Fifty-six year old Judy Tacktill started struggling to get around almost seven years ago.“As you’re walking, you’re scraping. Bone on bone. Very, very painful,” is her description.
She had one knee replaced. At that time, traditional knee replacement meant inpatient physical therapy and a long recovery.
So when Judy’s other knee started to wear out recently, she was anxious to find a better way. Nakul Karkare, M.D., is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hips and new knees. Dr. Karkare pre-plans surgery using three-dimensional imaging of a patient’s knee. Then during surgery he uses specialized tools, or jigs.
Dr. Karkare said, “the advantage of using these jigs is that these jigs are customized specifically for the patient.”
Surgeons make very precise cuts to remove the diseased part of the bone and then insert the artificial joint.
“It is also less invasive because we do a lot less cutting and drilling into the bone, and I think that translates into better rehabilitation.”
Judy was on her feet shortly after surgery and home a day later. Six weeks post-surgery, she uses a cane only when walking outside on uneven ground. She’s looking forward to leaving that behind sometime very soon.
Dr. Karkare tells patients to expect their new knees to feel great after about twelve weeks of physical therapy. Even with the less invasive, customized procedure, he said recovery from knee surgery still takes longer than hip replacement.