HealthWatch: Next Generation Knees & Twitter

The web messaging service Twitter has been making headlines these days. Protestors in Iran use it to get their message out. But closer to home, hospitals are also experimenting with Twitter. CBS 2’s very own Dr. Max Gomez was tweeting in surgery!

WCBS-TV—June 18, 2009

Mary Kiefer’s arthritic knee used to make noise when she walked and hurt so bad she had to give up the things she loves like golfing, bowling and gardening. A knee replacement would have solved her problem years ago, but her doctors discouraged her from having the procedure.

“[They said] I was very young to have it done and that I should wait as long as I possibly could,” Mrs. Kiefer recollects.

Steven Haas, MD, chief of the Knee Service at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, says that’s outdated advice.

“The lifespan of the implants, even the ones that were done many years ago, is much longer: 90 percent have lasted over 20 years,” Hass said. “In addition to that, we are using newer technology - ceramic components, newer plastics - so that the implants that we are putting in will last much longer than the ones done years ago.”

In addition to the technology of the knee implant itself improving, Haas has helped pioneer a minimally invasive approach to knee replacement that doesn’t cut muscle or tendons so recovery from the surgery is much faster. These advances mean that younger patients, like Kiefer, can have knee replacements when they need them rather than having to wait years in excruciating pain.

However, it’s not just younger patients who are experiencing the benefits of the advancements in technology - other developments mean patients in their eighties and nineties are also having knee replacements much more safely than before.

“It’s primarily the anesthetic management that we can do and we can monitor them more closely and handle the issues that come up in older patients,” Haas said.

Technology isn’t just broadening the scope of candidates eligible for knee replacement surgery - it is also allowing for the experience to be shared in a more global sense across social media networks. Gomez live-tweeted Kiefer’s surgery from inside of the OR, keeping followers of either the CBS-2 twitter feed (@wcbstv) or the one Hospital for Special Surgery maintains (@hspecialsurgery) in the loop with Dr. Haas during every step of the procedure.

But the bottom line is what the surgery will do for Kiefer: “Just getting back to enjoying my life - I’ve already joined a gym so I can work out when I’m done with physical therapy and just going back to doing the things I love to do,” she says.

Thanks to these advances in the surgery, nurses will get Kiefer up and walking today - an amazing 24 hours after her total knee replacement. She’ll go home in about three days and start home physical therapy for a couple of weeks followed by outpatient therapy three times a week for a couple of months.

Watch the full story at wcbstv.com.

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