June 06, 2012

A new knee, designed by computer for a perfect fit!

Pioneering Knee Surgery at The Wellington Hospital

PIONEERING new technology which ensures knee replacement joints are a perfect fit is now available at the Wellington Hospital.

Around 80,000 people a year in Britain have a knee replacement operation to treat a range of problems including arthritic joints, pain and sports injuries.

However, until now, fitting the implant which joins together the thigh and shin bones at the correct angle for an individual patient has not been easy.

Indeed, research shows between 10 and 15 per cent of knee replacement patients are unhappy with the result.

The new approach uses new Zimmer tailor-made equipment so that the prosthetic joint is put in exactly the right angle for the patient, giving them a greater range of motion and comfort.

Howard Ware, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at the Wellington Hospital who is one of the first to use this technique, explains: "The key to ensuring a knee joint is a perfect fit is implanting it at the correct angle. However, while there are average angles, up until now we have being doing this simply by guess work."

With this new technique, patients have an MRI scan of their knee, hip and ankle.

The results are fed into a computer programme containing thousands of algorithms which creates a model of how to cut the bone accurately and fit the implant, and designs surgical cutting instruments specifically for that patient to ensure a perfect fit.

The instruments take around four weeks to be made and the surgery is then carried out as normal.

According to Mr Ware, by having all the calculations on how to fit the implant done in advance, this reduces the time it takes to carry out the surgery by up to half an hour.

"If the joint fits like a glove, the patient is happier, there is less pain, stiffness and discomfort and they can get on with their lives again," he adds.

"With more and more patients needing knee joints, improving their fit is a big step forward."

Susan Levine, 66, from Finchley, north London, is one of the first to benefit from the new technology.

After having a previous knee replacement using the traditional approach, she has really seen the benefit of the made-to-order surgery which she had on her left knee last December.

"By the time I had the operation last year, the arthritis in my knee was so bad I had no cartilage left at all. It was bone on bone and so painful that I had to walk with a stick," said Mrs Levine.

"When I was offered made-to-measure surgery I was delighted. I had an MRI scan of my leg to get the measurements and it took about four weeks for the tailor-made equipment to come through.

I have definitely recovered quicker using this technique - the pain is not as bad, I am making quicker progress with the physiotherapist and the scar is much finer. I hope to be back playing tennis in the Spring!" she said.

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