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Minimally Invasive Surgery for Knee Replacements Cuts Recovery Time and Improves Results

Havre, Montana – Total knee replacement (knee arthroplasty) is a surgery that is performed for severe degenerative disease of the knee joint. More than 500,000 people undergo the procedure each year. Recent developments have created an option of Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) to achieve a better outcome for patients. Recovery time is reduced and the long-term results are improved greatly.

Michelle Donaldson, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon at Northern Montana Hospital performs 55-60 total knee replacements a year and is using the MIS method to better serve her patients. “Minimally invasive total knee replacement involves the use of a smaller incision than the one used in traditional knee replacement. Prior to this, the incisions averaged 8 to 10 inches in length. In MIS knee surgery, the incision is only 4 to 6 inches long. Because there is less damage to the tissue around the knee, patients who undergo this procedure may expect a shorter hospital stay, a faster recovery, reduced blood loss, and a better looking scar.”

Knee replacement involves resurfacing the worn out surfaces of the knee and replacing the lost cartilage and bone using metal and plastic. Knees wear out for several reasons; inflammation from arthritis, injuries, or simple wear and tear. When a knee wears out it can cause severe pain for an individual, even at rest. Once traditional methods of treatment, such as implementing an exercise program, weight loss or restricted activity have been tried, patients can attempt relief from knee braces, shoe inserts anti-inflammatory drugs or pain medications. However, once these options have been exhausted, surgery is usually chosen as a solution.

The traditional form of knee replacement involved an approximately 8-10” incision over the knee, cutting through the quadriceps muscle. The kneecap would then be flipped out of the way to allow access. This resulted in a hospital stay of three to five days after which the patient would still need an additional recovery period of approximately three months. The new procedure circumvents cutting into the quadriceps which allows for a smaller incision, a quicker healing time, and a shorter recovery period. As the MIS procedure is less traumatic it may also decrease post-operative pain.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, 90% of patients undergoing a knee replacement experience a dramatic reduction in pain, and a significant improvement in the ability to perform daily activities. Most of these individuals are able to perform daily activities and stay active. In many cases, they’re able to resume activities, such as golf and walking, that they gave up years ago due to arthritic pain. “I’ve been doing knee replacements for over 15 years. It decreases pain and improves the quality of life in many patients with severe knee pain. We’re seeing a ten-year success rate in excess of 90 percent. I personally am seeing much better outcomes for my patients with this method.” adds Dr. Donaldson.

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