20 or so years ago, a knee replacement was something you typically had once, and only when you were past retirement age. So what’s changed?
Once, knee replacements were only available to those past retirement age. That left knee consultants having difficult conversations with patients in their 40s and 50s, who didn’t relish the idea of having to wait 10 or 20 years to get their life back.
Yet with a responsibility for the long term care of every patient, knee surgeons were unable to offer more. Revision surgery (removing a worn out replacement and switching it for a new one) was in its infancy. We couldn’t carry out a knee replacement on a 45 year old knowing full well that come 55 or 65, they’d have worn out both the replacement and their options.
Happily things have changed, and that’s despite a population that’s getting heavier while simultaneously expecting to be stay active longer.
Year on year, Yorkshire Knee Clinic’s specialists have seen an increase in the numbers of younger patients. A knee replacement is no longer something that can help you maintain your independence in old age or keep up with the grandchildren. It’s something that can help you return to work, resume skiing, or head back out onto the dales and fells.
It’s not simply the science, although implants do last longer than they once did (although the ’10 year and out rule’ was always something of a myth). 95% of knee replacements now last 10 years, 90% last 15 years. 80% are still going strong after 20 years.
Knee surgeons are far more confident in performing operations. We understand the outcomes. We know how long the knee is likely to last. Crucially, if the replacement wears out you can have two and perhaps three revisions (replacement replacements) where once you could have none.
The rise of the partial knee replacement has also been transformative. Not only does it last almost as long as a total replacement, but when it wears out it can be revised to a total knee replacement, which effectively becomes a first replacement – adding a whole new step, and many years of activity – to the knee replacement timeline.
Challenges for the future
Of course, performing more knee replacements more successfully – and earlier – means fewer people are hanging up their boots, and many more are once again taking to the pitches, pistes, fairways and fells and placing extra demands on their knee replacements. Which leaves knee surgeons having to respond to an activity boom as well as a weight boom.
But for the knee consultants at Yorkshire Knee clinic, the fact that the challenge has shifted in such a way is simply a measure of how far we’ve come. And that’s a very rewarding thought indeed.
Experiencing knee pain? Talk to the knee doctors at Yorkshire Knee Clinic now.
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