New knees come with customized fit

August 29, 2006
Betsy Tull had lived with bad knees for years, but she didn’t want to have them replaced and deal with a recovery time that would make it hard for her to care for herself and her husband, who was due for a hip replacement. Then one day, her left knee went out and she couldn’t put off getting it replaced any longer.

On July 5, at New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s Orthopedic Specialty Center, Wilmington orthopedic surgeon Jack Bowling not only gave her a new knee, he gave her the first knee of its kind in the state. The knee is specially designed to more closely match the shape and function of a woman’s knee. It’s narrower and thinner than typical knee replacements and can provide more natural tracking because it takes into account the angle relationship between the pelvis and knee, which differs between men and women. The FDA approved this type of knee in May.

“The knee replacements that we have been using come in a wide range of sizes,” said Dr. Bowling. “But the shape of them is based on an averaging of the shapes of men’s and women’s knees.”

Although the shape of the new knee might fit some men, and some women will still be better matches for the standard knee replacements, Dr. Bowling believes the new knee shape will be a better match for up to 75 percent of the women who need a knee replacement. That could be a big number since 60 percent of the knee replacements done nationally go to women. Already, Dr. Bowling has performed 10 surgeries using the new knee.

“The results have been good,” said Dr. Bowling. “Better-fitted knees combined with advances in muscle-sparing surgical techniques have significantly accelerated recovery times.”

NHRMC’s Orthopedic Program Director, David Oehler, says it is an example of how the medical center is working with surgeons to provide high levels of customization for each patient.

“This patient-focused approach is so important to achieving the best outcomes and is something we all are very proud of,” said Oehler.

Athough 79-year-old Betsy Tull and her husband are still recovering from their joint replacements, they are looking forward to getting up and moving.

“Our granddaughter is getting married in October,” said Tull. “Dr. Bowling says we should be able to dance at the wedding, and I’m counting on that!”