Getting Knee Replacement Surgery Abroad: A New York Doctor Shares His Thoughts

Knee arthroplasty, more commonly known as total knee replacement surgery, removes damaged parts of the knee and replaces them with artificial parts and in recent years many people have decided to get knee replacement surgery abroad, specifically in the United States.

It’s been almost 50 years since the pioneering knee replacement procedures took place. Modern surgical techniques and advanced materials have greatly increased the success rate.

Today, total knee replacements are one of the safest and most effective surgeries, offering most patients a greatly improved quality of life. Knee replacement can offer pain relief, correct injury or deformity, and get patients back to their normal activity level in a matter of weeks.

Undergoing Knee Replacement Surgery Abroad

According to statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 700,000 people undergo total knee replacement surgery abroad, specifically in the United States, each year. As the population ages and remains more active into their 70s and 80s, this number is projected to continue to increase.

A study published in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery says it could reach as high as 3.48 million replacements annually within the next 15 years.

One reason total knee replacement procedures are so common is because patients of any age and weight may be eligible if their knee is causing significant pain and disability. Statistically, most patients who receive an artificial knee are between the ages of 50 and 80.

Why are knee replacements necessary?

Most patients who undergo a knee replacement have pain and weakness in the joint, leading to reduced function and disability. Often, they’ve exhausted a range of less-invasive treatments with little relief.

Typically treatments such as physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid injections and other avenues are attempted before surgery is recommended.

Most people who opt for knee replacement surgery have moderate to severe pain even while resting.

Custom knee replacement ready for implantation

Custom knee replacement ready for implantation

They may also have chronic inflammation. Many struggle to walk without a cane or walker, climb stairs and do other everyday activities because of their pain.

In most cases, this pain and weakness is caused by arthritis. This includes osteoarthritis; common in seniors, this type of arthritis can be compared to “wear and tear” on a vehicle.

Alternatively, post-traumatic arthritis may cause limited function and require a knee replacement. This often occurs in the years following fractures of the bones around the knee or damage to the knee ligaments.

How is a knee replacement surgery performed?

Knee replacement surgery replaces the surface of the bones around the knee. During the surgery, the surgeon removes affected cartilage and a small amount of bone from the bottom of the thigh bone, the top of the shin bone and the knee cap.

Traditionally, the surgeon has had to shape these bones to fit one of the pre-made implant options on the market. New breakthroughs in technology, however, now allow some surgeons to use imaging data to create a custom implant.

Because this implant is based on images of the patient’s own knee, less bone must be removed in order for the implant to fit properly. Studies show this may speed recovery time and lessen pain.

Custom Knee Replacement Surgery Abroad

A custom knee replacement is a novel technology in total knee replacement designs specifically to match the natural shape of the articulating surfaces of the patient’s knee. This technique helps to ensure accurate placement and alignment of knee implant components.

The procedure is less invasive as it eliminates the need to drill holes in the bones. Custom knee replacement usually requires fewer steps during the surgical procedure which results in shorter operating time, less time in the hospital, and a quicker recovery and return to normal activities.

While complications can occur after knee replacement surgeries, they are not common. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the surgery provides excellent results for up to 90 percent of patients. This means they can be more active, and return to the quality of life they enjoyed before their knees began causing pain and limited mobility.

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