The science behind knee replacement surgeries has become more advanced. The procedure itself is on the rise, with about 600,000 procedures performed annually.
"Good Morning America" medical contributor Dr. Marie Savard explains the latest developments in knee replacement surgeries below.
This procedure is done when the cartilage that cushions the joints in the knee is damaged. This experimental procedure takes a piece of the remaining healthy cartilage out of the knee and literally grows new tissue outside the body. Then the healthy tissue is re-inserted.
Someone with this knee damage would be looking at a partial or total knee replacement, which we're always looking to avoid. That's the upside. The downside is that the procedure is costly and has a long recovery time: the patient can't bear weight on the knee for 6-8 weeks, and could take up to a year to fully recover. In time, however, costs will go down and the technology may improve so that the recovery time will be decreased.
The partial knee replacement is minimally invasive and involves less bone and soft tissue involvement, which means there is less blood loss during surgery and fewer incidents of complications. It also means considerably less pain and a much quicker recovery period for the patient.
But there is a catch. A partial knee replacement requires some very delicate surgery.
In a partial knee replacement, damaged bone is removed, basically smoothed away. It's critical that the alignment is done just right. Smoothing away too much bone — or too little — negatively affects the fit and can cause serious problems for the patient. However, there's a new tool, a robotic arm that can be used with addressing the medial or inside portion of the knee. Using a computer and 3D calculations, the arm can be set precisely in a practically foolproof way. It won't let the surgeon make a cut in the wrong direction. It all leads to a more precise fit for the implant.
The surgery itself takes about two hours and physical therapy begins the same day. Since the quadriceps tendon is not cut, the patient can recover two- to three times more quickly.
Some surgeons are in favor of this same-day procedure because recovering from home is often safer, because it lowers the risk of infection. Others believe everyone deserves an overnight stay for pain control.
I think that we'll see that the future is computer-assisted, partial knee replacement surgery that's minimally invasive.
Find out more about the MAKO robotic arm at www.makosurgical.com.