As Boomers are aging, they are more frequently seeking relief from joint pain that is no longer manageable with over the counter medications, rest and heating pads. Many are getting their knee, hip, or shoulder joints replaced. Some estimates indicate nearly 300,000 who undergo knee replacement surgery this year alone will be women.
The anatomy of a woman's knee is very different from a man's. Today, there is an implant company (Zimmer), which offers an enhanced joint technology –gender specific knee joint replacement –especially designed for a woman's small frame.
“This new knee was developed to be shaped and sized to fit the female anatomy,” said Dr. LaDouceur of Summit Bone and Joint. “Equally important, the gender series doubles the number of size options available, which allows for a better fit in all patients regardless of gender.” There have been instances where the “female” knee has fit better in a male patient and vice versa. The new gender specific joint accommodates the smaller female anatomy because it is thinner in profile, allows for natural movement and features a contour shape to provide a more precise fit for the narrower anatomy of a woman's knee.
The goal of any joint replacement surgery is to improve an individual's quality of life. This includes alleviating pain, restoring mobility and improving function. Along with the development of these new implants, there have also been improvements in instrumentation which permits a less invasive surgical technique. All of these advancements typically result in smaller incisions, shorter hospital stays and quicker recovery.
If you are experiencing joint pain that is no longer relieved with home remedies, it might be time to consult a physician to get a full evaluation of the source of the pain and to determine if joint replacement surgery will give back the possibility to live life without pain.
“Choosing joint replacement surgery is a highly individualized decision,” said Dr. LaDouceur. “Patients, particularly younger or more active patients, need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of having surgery.” Dr. LaDouceur said the decision point often comes when pain and diminished quality of life become unacceptable and that threshold is different for each patient.
Patients report significantly less pain after surgery than before, and, in most cases, patients experience a markedly improved level of mobility compared to their preoperative condition. Many total joint patients suffer from other medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. The combination of pain reduction and improved mobility allow these patients to be involved in a regular exercise program, which has been shown to help reduce the risks of these other problems. “I have a number of patients that have been able to reduce or eliminate some medications as a direct consequence of joint replacement,” Dr. LaDouceur stated.
Studies show that regardless of which implant is used, about 90 percent of knee replacement surgeries are successful. As implant design and materials improve, some studies suggest that 80 percent of replacements may last up to 20 years.