New Techniques Improve Hip & Knee Replacement Surgeries

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Do your knees creak or your hips hurt so much they’re preventing normal, everyday activities?

You might soon become one of the more than one million Americans who have a total knee or hip replacement each year. While some people fear that, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez explains these aren’t your grandfather’s joint replacements anymore.

Patricia Whitnah is a fit and active 60-year-old by almost any standards, which makes it hard to believe that just eight weeks ago her right knee was completely replaced.

“Painful, difficult bending. It would swell,” she says. “There were times when getting up from a table, it would be completely uncomfortable or stuck.”

While not all knee replacement patients do as well as Whitnah, Dr. Steven Haas, chief of the knee service at the Hospital for Special Surgery, says it’s actually not all that unusual. He says a combination of technical developments have dramatically improved the results in knee replacement surgeries.

“The implants are much better, the surgical techniques are much better — we do it through much smaller openings. The rehabilitation is better,” he says. “We have newer medications that prevent blood loss and decrease pain, so that the operation is not nearly as painful as it used to be, and in fact the recovery is much faster than it used to be.”

“I was off narcotics in three days. Within two weeks, I was driving,” Whitnah says. “I’m waking 30 miles a week easily since about a month out, dancing at a wedding a month later.”

It’s not just the knees that have gotten much better. Roderick Duhaney’s hip used to be excruciatingly painful.

“I was taking 30 Advil a day. My entire day was planned around how much Advil I could take,” he says.

Roderick was one of the first patients in the country to undergo an FDA approved hip replacement surgery called OPS, or optimized positioning system. At New York University’s Hospital for Joint Disease, multiple X-rays of the hip and spine help create a 3-D model of the hip.

“I’ve pretty much done the surgery before I’ve even started,” Dr. Jonathan Vigdorchik says.

Total joint replacements are now being done in younger and much older patients — younger because knees and hips are easily lasting 20, even 30 years and more, and older because modern anesthesia makes it safe for even some 90-year-olds.

These are still major operations, but if painful joints are robbing your quality of life, they could help.

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