Improving total knee replacement

Osteoarthritis affects 21 million people in the United States and thousands of people in the Rock River Valley. In 1999, 267,000 total knee replacement (TKR) surgeries were performed in the Untied States. Almost two-thirds of those who undergo this surgery are women.

The knee is the largest joint in the body. A normal joint has smooth cartilage covering the surface of the bones. In a joint affected by osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis, the cartilage wears away, causing bone surfaces to rub together, causing pain, swelling and stiffness.

Treatment options include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, cortisone injections and surgery. The traditional surgery for end-stage osteoarthritis is a total knee replacement, which involves replacing the rough bony surfaces of the knee with metal and plastic components through an eight- to 10-inch incision. The contact points between the thigh bone, shin bone and knee cap are all replaced. Most of the other structures of the knee, including the connecting ligaments, remain intact.

During the eight- to 12-week recovery period, extensive physical therapy is required. By the end of 12 weeks, most patients have less pain and improved mobility.

In an effort to shorten the recovery period, minimally invasive total knee replacement surgery has been introduced. Special instruments allow surgeons to perform replacement surgery with less muscle disturbance through an incision four to five inches in length. This approach should allow a quicker recovery with less pain, a shorter hospital stay, a smaller scar and the same excellent results as traditional total knee replacement surgery.

Mark E. Hastings, M.D., is an orthopedic surgeon at Orthopedic & Arthritis Clinic of Rockford and an active staff member at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center.

The members of the medical staff at OSF Saint Anthony urge you to protect your health by having regular checkups and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For more information, call 815-395-5342.

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