Technology Gives Leg Up on Knee Replacement

Topeka - New technology is making a beneficial surgery even better.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mike McCoy says knee and hip replacements have done wonders to improve quality of life. However, even a slight misplacement can make the new joints wear out more quickly. In the early years, surgeons would place the new joints visually, then rods would help with alignment. Today, computers can make the placement more accurate than ever.

Dr. McCoy compares it to the alignment on a car. If it's off a little, the driver won't notice it, but you'll need to replace the tires will wear out more quickly.

Stormont-Vail has the Ci System to take the guesswork out of placing a replacement knee. They first invested in it three years ago, and are currently a test site for an upgrade that makes it even more accurate and makes the procedure quicker. Electrodes attached to the leg communicate with a hand-held pointer and a special camera to create a three-dimensional model of each person's unique knee placement. Using that model, doctors can put in the new joint within a couple millimeters accuracy.

Dr. McCoy says a replacement knee usually lasts 15 to 20 years. Improving the accuracy of the alignment can increase that to 20 to 25 years. He says making the initial procedure last as long as possible is vital because a second knee replacement is a more involved surgical procedure that doesn't carry as much success. Plus, he says doctors are seeing more younger knee replacement patients.

The Ci System is only for knee replacements right now. Programs for hip replacements and ligament rebuilding are under development.