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More than 600,000 knee-replacement surgeries are done in the United States every year, and as Baby Boomers continue to age, some say that figure will grow to 1 million within the next decade. Patients are increasingly choosing an option that allows doctors to build their patient’s knees.
Less than a year ago, climbing a flight of stairs would have been impossible for Amanda Fair-Evans. “I couldn’t even get out of the car, and I was like, ‘What is this?’” Fair-Evans said. The pain in her left knee was unbearable. Fair-Evans tried medication and cortisone shots and finally begged her doctor for surgery. “I have no quality of life,” Fair-Evans recalled saying. “I have grandkids and I want to play with my grandkids. Please give me a new knee.”
Dr. Mathew Pombo, an orthopedic surgeon, felt Fair-Evans would be a great candidate for a personalized replacement knee. A standing CT scan of a patient’s leg captures the alignment, followed by a three-dimensional printing process. “We can input components into the computer and print off a specific femur and a specific tibia that fits the bone perfectly,” Pombo said. It takes about six weeks for a medical company to create the custom knee. During surgery, doctors remove the damaged joint. Then, using individually designed tools, surgeons insert the new joint and cement it in. “It’s basically like putting a train on perfectly aligned train tracks,” Pombo said. “It should wear better.”
Five months later, Fair-Evans had her other knee replaced. Now she’s back to the things she loves to do. “(I’m) taking long walks, playing with my grandkids and dancing,” Fair-Evans said. “I haven’t danced in a long time.” Pombo said there is a faster recovery, less blood loss and easier range of motion when patients have the personalized 3D knee surgery.