Two patients today alone were shocked when they heard how a knee is ‘replaced’.
I was asked if the entire knee is ‘chopped out’, cutting at the mid thigh and mid leg, and put something in between. They also asked me if there was a way to ‘resurface’ the knee instead of replacing. The answer to both of these questions is important.
First, surgeons DO NOT CUT OUT the entire knee. It has never been done this way. A knee replacement IS a resurfacing operation in the first place. Only the ends of the bones with the diseased cartilage surface are removed. Nearly all the ligaments are left in place. These are essentially ‘skim cuts’ of the end of the bones that are then resurfaced with new surfaces.
The new surface on the thigh bone is made of metal and high polished to minimize wearing down. The tibia, or leg bone, is resurfaced using a metal tray with a special plastic liner that rubs against the metal piece on the thigh bone. This metal-plastic interface has been tested and proven to have extremely good wear characteristics to last for many years to come.
Remember, a joint replacement IS really a joint RESURFACING procedure that removes minimal pieces of the bone and leaves as much of your natural knee attachments and parts in place.
A knee replacement is not the natural knee with which you were born. It is an engineered way to help you knee move smoothly and without pain. You will notice an occasional click which is normal and occurs as at the parts touch each other. This is completely normal. Some say it doesn’t feel exactly like the normal knee – true ! its medicine’s best way to get you going again.
A partial knee replacement is just that – resurfacing only one region of the knee. I do this procedure using a computer-assisted robotic method. This is an amazing option for the right patient. It is minimally invasive, takes away less bone, and has a quicker recovery.
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Dr. Scott Hacker is a Sports Medicine Orthopedic Surgeon in San Diego, CA, Team Surgeon to the US Olympic Team. He specializes in sports medicine and sports injuries, knee and shoulder surgery.
If you have questions about knee replacements, or think you may need a knee replacement, please feel free to contact me at Ask Dr. Hacker or through my office.
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