AUG. 24, 2007 | Adults who once suffered for years with arthritic knees while waiting until they were old enough for a total knee replacement now can benefit from an innovative procedure available in Arkansas only at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).
UAMS’ Richard Evans, M.D., this week became the first surgeon in Arkansas and among the first in the United States to perform the bicompartmental knee resurfacing after becoming certified for the procedure along with a select group of orthopaedic surgeons, primarily from academic medical institutions.
“This is a brand new, exciting advancement,” said Evans, chief of Adult Reconstruction, director of the Center for Hip and Knee Surgery and associate professor in the UAMS Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. “This implant procedure gives us an early interventional treatment for many of our patients who are too young for a total knee replacement but who are in desperate need of pain relief.”
Raymond Foltz of Cabot became the first Arkansas patient to receive the implant during the hour-long surgery on his right knee, which included the removal of painful arthritic bone surfaces. Evans described Foltz as an extremely healthy, active 71-year-old whose surgery today will allow him to resume a pain-free, active lifestyle and delay a total knee replacement for another 10 to 20 years.
Foltz was walking within hours of surgery and is expected to have full strength in his knee and leg in about four weeks.
The advanced procedure provides a dual benefit for adults with arthritis who may also have knee ligament damage, often due to sports-related accidents, Evans said. Arthritis sufferers have been poor candidates for knee ligament surgery because repairing ligaments does not improve the pain and disability caused by their existing arthritis.
“We expect to see many patients – most in their 40s, 50s and 60s – who can now benefit from this new combination of sports medicine and joint reconstruction thanks to the bicompartmental implant,” Evans said. “We can eliminate their arthritis pain with the implant and stabilize the knee with ligament repairs at the same time. This is an area where joint reconstruction or replacement is merging with sports medicine.”
Prior to the bicompartmental implant, surgeons could repair only one of the knee’s three compartments in younger patients, which meant little relief for many arthritis sufferers. Until now, the only procedure beyond the single, unicompartmental or unicondylar surface replacement was a total three compartment knee replacement. A total knee replacement requires removing all the ligaments and is usually recommended for those ages 65 and older due to the limited life-span of the replacement.
“Because we don’t remove ligaments like we would normally do with a total knee, the new implant feels more like a normal knee to the patient than a total knee replacement does,” Evans said. “The few people who have had a bicompartmental surface replacement on one knee and a total knee replacement on the other leg unanimously say that they prefer the bicompartmental resurfacing.”
The benefit of the bicompartmental implant is similar to that of a new hip resurfacing implant procedure also now offered at UAMS. Like the knee implant, the hip implant relieves arthritic pain in younger adults until they are old enough for a total hip replacement. Evans began providing this minimally invasive hip procedure in March.
UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,435 students and 715 medical residents. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with about 9,400 employees, including nearly 1,000 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $5 billion a year. For more information, visit www.uams.edu.