Bone and Joint Health

Stand Tall Again: Advancements in Knee Replacements

Whether you're involved in athletic endeavors or simply feeling the effects of aging, knee pain is prevalent because the knee is made up of so many parts. Knee trouble may lead you down many treatment paths based on what's causing your pain, and such conditions as arthritis, cartilage issues, meniscus tears, affected tendons, and torn ligaments are common.

Physical therapy is often an option, but so is the operating table. Although nobody wants to have surgery, there may come a time when your doctor starts talking about anything from simple arthroscopic surgeries to knee replacements.

While the idea is certainly nerve-wracking, rest assured that knee procedures have gotten better over time. If your doctor decides you need a knee replacement, there are several options that might help reduce your pain and increase your mobility. Let's take a look at some of the most common ones.

Total Knee Replacement

A total knee replacement (TKR) is a common surgical treatment for knee pain, and medical professionals may also refer to it as knee arthroplasty. Surgeons have been performing total knee replacements since 1968, and in that time, technology and procedures continue to evolve and improve. This surgery is safe and an effective treatment for knee pain.

A total knee replacement usually involves removing damaged areas, replacing them with artificial metal and plastic components, and then placing a plastic spacer between the metal components as a protective buffer. You will likely have to avoid high-impact exercise after you heal, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, but more than 90 percent of TKR patients "experience a dramatic reduction of knee pain and a significant improvement in the ability to perform common activities." Those are pretty good odds for a better quality of life.

Partial Knee Replacement

A more formal name for a partial knee replacement procedure is an unicompartmental knee replacement (UKR). It may also be called a patellofemoral partial arthroplasty. This is a newer procedure than a total knee replacement, and it spares the healthy portion of the knee. By maintaining healthy cartilage, ligaments, and bone, the repaired knee's movement feels more natural for many patients. The partial knee replacement also may leave you in less pain and allow you to recover more quickly from surgery.

Robot-Assisted Knee Replacement

Medical and technological advances have led to the use of robots in knee replacement surgeries. This technique allows for more precision and accuracy in placing the knee implant, and it helps doctors preserve more bone. One drawback of robot-assisted knee replacement surgery is that the procedure can take, on average, 10 minutes longer than traditional methods, but that additional time in surgery can result in better outcomes as the knee heals.

Knee Replacements for Women

There are differences in size and movement between women's and men's knees. This may be linked to a greater incidence of knee osteoarthritis in women compared to men as they age. New replacement parts and advances in techniques allow physicians to more precisely match replacement knee components to the patient, a method referred to as gender-specific implant.

These developments in knee replacement techniques and technology have allowed surgeons to specifically address the type of knee replacement each individual patient needs, and such precision and individualized treatment can lead to much better long-term outcomes for patients and their new knees. If you're dealing with knee pain, don't wait to see your doctor. Even if it comes down to needing surgery, you can take solace in the fact that treatment options are, right now, the best they've ever been.

Posted in Bone and Joint Health

Judy Schwartz Haley is a freelance writer and blogger. She grew up in Alaska and now makes her home in Seattle with her husband and young daughter. Judy battled breast cancer when her daughter was an infant, and now she devotes much of her free time to volunteering as a state leader with the Young Survival Coalition, which supports young women with breast cancer.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.