A look at custom knee implants

KUSA - People have been getting knee replacement surgery for decades -- and 600,000 people will have the surgery this year alone. Now, there is a new personalized knee implant which is made specifically for one person.

These types of personalized knee replacements are being described as a breakthrough in this otherwise common surgery. This new custom knee is called the Conformis knee implant. With it, surgeons use 3D technology and a CT scan to get the precise dimensions of someone's specific knee. From these dimensions, a patient-specific implant will be prepared and made available prior to the patient's surgery.

Prior to this type of technology, implants were sized based on what's known as "off-the-shelf" inventory, meaning that the implants were sized as closely to the patient as possible given implants that had been made for the average knee sizes. Although these implants could come close to matching a person's specific knee, this new technology can allow a much more precise custom fit.

Sharon Bouck, 67, recently underwent this type of surgery. For her, this is the beginning of a new journey. Lately, she has had a lot of pain on what should have been easy walks with her husband, and while playing with her grandchildren. The joys of her life were more difficult than they should be because of this knee pain. So, she's hoping this custom implant knee surgery changes everything. One of her big goals this summer is to do a 14er with her husband and a bunch of biking.

Sharon is getting a custom knee, one that is made just for her-- something that wasn't even possible until recently.

Up until now, orthopedic surgeons have normally used something called "off-the-shelf knee implants", or eight or nine kinds that generally fit the average knee.

According to Dr. Derek Johnson, an orthopedic surgeon at Parker Adventist Hospital, with the new knee implant, patients get a CT scan and then a specific, precise implant is designed just for that body. This can help not only with size but perhaps more importantly with the patient's specific knee geometry. And matching these parameters is particularly important for those that intend to stay active.

Athlete Jess Becker, 38, just had this surgery three months ago. He says he's been into sports as long as he can remember, but a ski injury derailed his active life. Even simple things like playing with his family or playing fetch with his dog had become painful.

He knew "the big" surgery was the only thing left to do, so he opted for this custom implant. His goal now is to play basketball again -- which was less likely at his level with off-the-shelf implants. After surgery, Jess feels like he's on his way to doing everything he wants to do.

As for Sharon, her surgery took less than an hour. She was up and walking later that day. According to Dr. Johnson, the goal is to get patients closer to what is called the "forgotten knee", the type of knee after transplant that has no issues so is forgotten about. It's also to get through rehab early on and regain strength.

Many more patients now, like one of the patients in our story, are opting for the surgery earlier in life because they want to continue being active. In 10 years, because of our aging population, people working longer, and weight factors the AARP expects the number of knee transplants to increase to 3.2 million per year.

This custom knee implant is called the "Conformis". There is more than one hospital in the area using this new technology. Talk to your doctor for more information on which type of knee replacement is best for you.

(KUSA-TV © 2015 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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