A Q&A with Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Mr Sam Rajaratnam FRCS, knee joint replacement specialist, discussing the latest developments in knee replacement surgery.
What is a knee replacement?
A knee replacement is an operation that involves replacing a worn or damaged knee joint with an artificial one. One of the most common reasons for needing a joint replacement is osteoarthritis. This is a type of arthritis where gradual wear and tear leads to loss of the surface cartilage protecting the end of the bone. With the knee, a joint replacement involves replacing the joint surface at the end of the thigh bone and at the top of the shin bone.
Who can benefit from a knee replacement?
Anyone who is in significant pain or has swelling and instability due to worn surfaces inside the knee may benefit from this procedure. Initially, conservative treatments such as painkillers, exercise, physiotherapy and muscle strengthening may have been tried to manage the condition, but if these are unsuccessful then a permanent surgical solution may be required.
Has there been an improvement with implant design over the years?
I believe implant designs have improved tremendously over the past ten years with modern replacements striving to mimic the natural shape of the knee more accurately. This can lead to better function and feel of the replaced joint.
Are the materials they are made of getting better?
Implant manufacturers globally have invested tremendous resources into improving the manufacturing and materials. This is resulting in reduced wear of the artificial joint, and when combined with better surgical techniques, this seems to be leading to knee joint replacements lasting even longer. Currently, the industry expectation is that the majority of knee replacements are expected to last over 20 years.