Local Doctors Using Cutting-Edge Approach To Knee Replacements

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Hundreds of thousands of Americans get a knee replacement every year.

Instead of a one-size-fits-all type of approach, what if you could customize the new knee to be exactly the same shape and size as your old one?

Now, there’s a new, cutting-edge approach that’s giving some knee replacement patients a leg up.

Patty Wilson cleaned houses, but her knees would hurt more and more after work.

“Going up and down the steps in and out of their house, or getting on your hands and knees to do anything at all, it got impossible,” Wilson said.

When she couldn’t play with her granddaughter anymore, she knew it was time for surgery.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do the things we like to do, like go camping, and take her for walks, and have fun with her,” she said.

Every year in the United States, 700,000 knees are replaced. But, the thought of being treated as an individual appealed to her.

“Because I’m so short, nothing has ever fit right, and I just thought it would be a good match. You could get something that was actually suited for you. And I just felt like it would just last longer, or I’d recover better,” Wilson said.

For her knee replacements, her doctor used customized jigs that fit directly onto her bones, created just for her from her own X-rays and MRI scans.

“That’s my first major, major surgery. And it was kind of scary,” Wilson said.

The typical operation involves putting rods into the core of the bone during surgery to help the doctor figure out dimensions and rotation in order to make the right cuts on the bone.

“Making those determinations intra-operatively can be time consuming, and can be technically troublesome at times, considering the size of the patient,” Dr. Donald Ravasio said.

Using this customized procedure cuts down on blood loss and surgical time.

“For example, where I would normally do a total knee replacement in one hour, it allows me to do that knee replacement in 40 minutes,” Dr. Ravasio said.

This is particularly well-suited for larger patients and people who have had previous fractures or trauma-related deformities of the bone.

“The depth of resection, or how much bone we need to cut. And that’s typically the most difficult thing to determine in a knee replacement. Is how much bone we need to resect,” Dr. Ravasio said.

Dr. Ravasio has done more than 200 cases over the past two years using this technique.

“The saw basically goes right in through this area here. And that allows us to cut very accurately the very end of the distal part of the femur,” Dr. Ravasio said.

While the jigs are covered by insurance, the more challenging part is doing the preparatory imaging to create the jigs.

“Sometimes we have bigger difficulty getting the MRI approved,” Dr. Ravasio said.

For that reason, it’s not the routine method for knee replacement.

How people do with knees replaced with the customized jigs compared to the standard way is hard to compare, because it’s the younger, fitter patients getting this cutting-edge approach.

Patty is just ten days out from her knee replacements, and she’s looking forward to getting back to her old self.

“Hanging out with my granddaughter and going camping. Things that I’ve always enjoyed, but have been really hard,” Wilsons said.

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