Knee arthroplasty, or total knee replacement, procedures have recently been vastly improved by new advances in technology. A custom fit total knee replacement offers patients an implant that has been tailored to the exact specifications of their personal anatomy. Each device is comprised of replacement components for the ends of the tibia and femur bones as well as a spacer that rests in the middle. However, rather than using standard implants, the custom fit system replaces the worn joint with implants that are sized, shaped and contoured according to the patient’s unique structure.
In order to develop a truly customized implant, a three-dimensional image of the patient’s knee must be created prior to the knee replacement surgery. An MRI scan is taken of the affected knee, producing images that provide a multitude of information about the tissues, bones and other structures of the knee. All of this data is entered into an advanced computer program that formulates a detailed three-dimensional image to be used to tailor the implant and surgery to that unique patient.
Based on the computer-generated 3-D image of the knee, the damaged areas are corrected virtually. This enables a customized implant to be designed, taking into consideration the precise measurements and angles necessary for each individual patient. It is specific to the anatomy of the patient’s arthritic knee and takes into consideration the exact placement of where the implant will sit within the joint. The surgeon can then match up this perfectly tailored implant by following customized guidelines produced by this advanced system.
The custom fit total knee replacement procedure offers a number of benefits over tradition methods of knee replacement. The precision of the customization allows for more consistently successful outcomes for patients and less wear and tear on the implant over time, helping it to potentially last longer. Both the time in surgery and the recovery period afterward are shorter. In addition, patients report experiencing less pain after surgery as well as a more natural feeling knee.
Another major advantage of the custom fit procedure is that the ligaments of the knee and greater amounts of healthy bone can often be maintained, preserving more natural tissue than other forms of knee replacement. Follow-up visits to evaluate the status of the implant typically find that patients who had undergone a custom fit knee replacement demonstrate more stability and fuller function in the treated knee than those who had a conventional joint replacement surgery.
After general anesthesia has been administered, the surgeon makes an incision in the knee. Using the information provided by the computer model as a guide, the surgeon will cut the bone in predetermined, highly specific locations. The exact placement of the surgical cuts helps ensure that the knee will have optimal alignment and stability as well as the ability to rotate normally.
A trial implant may initially be placed within the joint. This is done in order to test the fit, placement and alignment of the device. Once the surgeon determines the most accurate positioning and balance within the joint, the custom-fit implant is inserted and held in place with cement. The surgeon will then close the incision.
A custom fit total knee replacement procedure generally requires a hospital stay of two to four days. Mobility is encouraged almost immediately following the surgery. However, most patients will have to use an assistive device such as crutches or a cane for several weeks to ensure that too much stress is not placed on the healing knee.
Physical therapy is very beneficial after a custom fit total knee replacement surgery. The length of time in therapy will vary by individual, but usually, a course of six to 12 weeks is recommended. The therapy will focus on restoring strength, flexibility and a greater range of motion to the affected knee. Complete recovery is typically achieved in three to six months after the procedure.