Updated: 05/27/2004 05:25 AM
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, there are about 400,000 knee replacement surgeries performed every year. One experimental knee may improve knee implants just in time for aging baby boomers.
When Jerry Ward, 80, went in for knee replacement surgery, he came out a bionic man. Today he carries a microchip in his leg calculating every step he takes. It's to help researchers gather information that will lead to better, longer-lasting knee implants.
“This isn't really the technology; this is just the path to the new technology,” Jerry said.
"This has taken us 13 years to develop one, just one implant, for one individual,” said Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Clifford Colwell.
Dr. Colwell implanted the unique "E-Knee" at Scripps Hospital in San Diego.
“We’ve placed electronics inside the tibia component to reflect all of the forces that the patient utilizes in his daily activities or sports activities,” Dr. Colwell continued.
Doctors used to “guess”timate how much pounding a knee takes based on theory. The knee chip measures the actual forces, as they happen, and sends the information to a computer.
“If we could learn from this particular implant, every patient who has an implant from now on will gain the information to what they can and can’t do with their implants,” Dr. Colwell said.
For example, is the force of your golf swing wearing your implant out?
“And if so, can you exercise one muscle to get the forces better distributed than another?”
As a golfer with an artificial hip and two artificial knees now, Jerry's eager to help researchers improve implants. “Lives are very different when you can move around and be active as opposed to when you can’t.”
A typical knee implant today lasts about 15 years. Researchers hope this study will answer the many questions as to why they eventually fail.
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