Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Have you or someone you know been told you need a knee replacement, but you just can’t go through with it?
You’re thinking, I’m too young and these things only last 10 or 15 years, and I don’t want to go through that kind of major surgery twice.
Well, what about a knee replacement that lasts 30 years?
After years of pain and arthritis, a local 50-year-old daycare owner needed a new knee.
“I do like to interact with the kids sometimes, but it just wasn’t possible some days. It hurt that bad,” said Lisa McCloskey, of Wheeling, W. Va. “It was hard to walk on, it was hard to do anything.”
But because the standard knee replacement only lasts 10 to 15 years, she was concerned.
“It was scary at first because all everyone would talk about is my age,” said McCloskey. “‘You’re so young to have this done; you’re so young to have this done. If you got the regular knee, in 10 years, you’d have to get it redone.’ And I thought, ‘I’m going to be 60, and I can’t go through this again.’”
With her active lifestyle, and her relatively young age, her doctor decided to use a newer kind of knee replacement.
Instead of the usual cobalt and chrome, this one has ceramic over the metal, and upgraded wear-tolerant plastic.
Because of the design, the joint polishes itself, which decreases scratches and breakdown. It’s supposed to last 30 years, based on simulating 30 years of wear in a lab.
This makes it ideal for the patient under 60, which is a group that orthopedists are seeing more and more.
“Because of that patient population, they’re forced to try and find ways to make the implants last longer and longer,” said Dr. Gregory Lavigne, of Allegheny General Hospital Orthopedics.
The 30-year knee isn’t new. It’s actually been around since 1997, but a lot of patients still don’t know it’s an option.
Insurance does cover it, and it’s only a few hundred dollars more than a standard knee.
Nevertheless, it’s still major surgery, and the rehab after can be tough.
So, the knee has to be worn out, and all other treatments have to be tried first before replacement is even considered, which was certainly the case with McCloskey.
“We did the scope; we did the shots you do for five weeks,” she said. “We did all that, and nothing was working.”
They decided to go ahead with the surgery. But McCloskey didn’t know she’d be getting the 30-year knee at the time.
Her doctor told her he would have to see how bad it looked at the time of the operation, and then decide which knee to put in.
The surgery was last October. McCloskey was back to work in December.
“Finding out I had the 30-year knee, I was very excited about that because I know it’ll last,” she said.
Even this newer kind of joint replacement can still fail if there is loosening or wear.
To minimize that possibility, doctors use a computer program that creates 3D models from MRI scans and x-rays to help create the best alignment of the hip, knee and ankle.
The doctors at Allegheny General Hospital have been offering the new kind of knee replacement for the past two years.
They’ve used this in about 50 patients, who Dr. Lavigne says are doing well.