New Knee Replacement Offers Increased Flexibility for arthritis sufferers

Arthritis patients and others who may need knee replacements now have access to a new type of knee replacement that allows for much greater flexibility than older methods.

A new artificial joint implant provides patients with up to 155 degrees of flexibility compared with 133 degrees in existing artificial knee implants. The “high-flex” knee also lasts longer because it produces less wear on its components compared with existing artificial knee replacements.

A 70-year-old man from northwest suburban Rolling Meadows, Illinois, who was suffering from increasing chronic pain caused by arthritis in one of his knees, was the first person in the Midwest to receive the new knee implant on Sept. 14 at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, Chicago.

“This knee implant advancement should be great news to people enjoying an active lifestyle as they age,” said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mitchell Sheinkop, who implanted the new artificial, prosthetic knee. “Following rehabilitation, individuals with the “high-flex” knee should be able to maintain the knee flexibility they enjoyed before the surgery. As a result, they can return to the activities they enjoyed before the operation.”

The knee and other joints tend to wear out over time. This can lead to osteoarthritis that causes the cartilage on the surface of the bones to wear away. Without the cartilage surface, bone rubs against bone, creating varying degrees of pain. Because of the pain, people avoid using the afflicted joints. Disuse causes the joints to stiffen and flexibility is reduced.

Knee replacement surgery is recommended for individuals generally over 55 years of age who have arthritis too advanced to benefit from other treatment options. Other treatments include medications, cellular and cartilage transfers, arthroscopy or less complex procedures involving surgery to realign the knee.

Artificial joints, or prostheses, are composed of steel that replaces the bone and plastic that replaces the cartilage. The new knee replacements were introduced two years ago in Asian and middle Eastern countries in response to growing demands from people whose cultures involve sitting on their knees or kneeling when praying or eating.

Growing numbers of people there who had knee replacement surgery using existing prosthetic knee joints developed in the Western world complained about their inadequate flexibility. Zimmer, Inc., of Warsaw, Ind., a major supplier of prosthetic joints, began the process of designing and manufacturing a more flexible knee joint. The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the new prosthesis in this country earlier in the year.

About 500 knee replacement surgeries are done at Rush each year. More than 300,000 knee replacement surgeries are done at hospitals nationwide each year.

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