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Knee Replacements Expected to Skyrocket

CBSNews -- Knee replacements are expected to skyrocket. The reason? The high rate of diabetes, obesity and aging baby boomers.
CBSNews -- Knee replacements are expected to skyrocket. The reason? The high rate of diabetes, obesity and aging baby boomers.

Some patients haven't had a good experience, however, because the new joint didn't fit right.

Whether it's from an injury in your youth, or wear and tear from life's ups and downs, knee replacements are rising with the age of baby boomers.

"Increasingly the baby boomer generation has the opposite sort of tact which is ‘I should be able to continue to play sports until I’m 90,’” says Aaron Rosenberg, MD Orthopedic Surgeon at Rush University of Chicago.

Rosenberg says advances in knee implant technology will give future patients a leg up on those of the past.

Just as we don't look the same on the outside, nor do we on the inside, gone are the days where surgeons had just a handful of off the shelf implant shapes and sizes. Now the Zimmer Persona offers 42 choices.

"Women and men skeletally are differently shaped,” says Rosenberg. “And the United States now a days you encounter multiple ethnicities and it turns out there are real differences in the shapes and configurations of the boney parts."

A better fit can mean less pain and a better outcome.

"In the NFL, one of the situations that we're faced with right now is we see a lot of penalties a lot of flags coming out because guys get hit in the head,” says world champion quarterback Joe Theismann. “Well there's only one other place that defensive backs are going to go and that's to the knee."

Theismann's 1985 leg injury was called the NFL’s most shocking moment in history. He's a company spokesman and says another type of implant, that is personally made to fit only you, will change the lives of retired players and everyday people alike.

"So many of my team mates and friends that I know have been exposed to orthopedic surgeons and really have been able to put their lives back together and create a quality of life and that's really what customized knee implants are all about,” says Theismann.

Florida orthopedic surgeon Dr. Gregory Martin says fear of post-op pain and long recoveries can keep people from getting knee replacements, but with this custom implant he sees people getting back to normal in half time of just 6 weeks.

"If the implant’s a little bit too big it can rub against tendons or muscles and it can really be painful,” says Martin. “But just three millimeters of being too big have been shown in studies to increase the risk of post operative pain."

And if tension on the ligaments is not right, that can cause pain too.

"With our system there's very little ligament balancing required,” says Adam Hayden
ConforMIS, VP of marketing. “Because simply we're putting the anatomy back in to a patient that existed before so in many ways it is a simpler procedure."

Joe Theismann also says he feels we've reached an age of specialization and to ignore it would be foolish.

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