The baby boomer population is the largest cohort in America, representing over 20% of the total U.S. population. As this generation reaches retirement age, their unique concerns offer new challenges to orthopedic surgeons.
One interesting trend that has been observed is a rise in arthritis in younger patients. This has been linked to the baby boomer population enjoying a more active lifestyle, even well into retirement. A higher incidence of sports-related injuries has been associated with the rise of arthritis. This isn’t slowing these patients down, though! Even with arthritis, most patients desire a return to the active lifestyle they enjoy. This poses a unique challenge to the orthopedic surgeon: how to safely perform a joint replacement while preserving as much bone and ligament as possible so that the patient can continue doing the activities they love.
Until now, total knee replacement was the only treatment option available for arthritis of the knee, replacing all 3 compartments of the knee. Today, we can perform partial knee replacements (as there are 3 compartments in the knee, we can replace them individually or in combination). At this time, partial knee replacements can be performed when the arthritis is in the medial or inner aspect, lateral or outer aspect, patellofemoral or central compartment or combinations; medial+patellofemoral or lateral+paellofemoral. These partial replacements are often done in much younger patients in their 30s and 40s when severe damage is present allowing bone and ligament preservation with a “Natural Feel” to the knee.
Another exciting development in the technology of knee replacement is three-dimensional surface imaging and rapid computer-assisted manufacturing. This allows the surgeon to scan the patient’s knee prior to surgery and manufacture a custom total or partial knee replacement that precisely fits their knee, and their knee alone. This drastically reduces surgery time and helps the orthopedic surgeon preserve the natural shape of the patient’s joint.
These developments are very exciting for patients who may need a knee replacement at a younger age. Partial replacement and custom-manufactured joints allow earlier treatment while keeping the option open for a total replacement in the future should the disease progress. Early outcomes report a satisfaction rate higher than 90%.