Jump for Joint Replacement
The same tough material that’s used in suspension lines on parachutes helps keep joint replacement patients moving.
According to Scott Faucett, MD, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the George Washington University Hospital, and a member of an elite group of physicians that cares for the U.S. Olympic ski team, people who meet indications for joint replacement have changed. “They used to say, ‘I can’t get out of bed.’ Now they say, ‘I can’t run my 5 miles so I need to think about this.’”
With people staying active longer, joint replacement technology has risen to meet the demands. The biggest advance is in the material comprising the joint implant. The one used by orthopaedic surgeons at GW Hospital, which has a long, successful clinical history, is ultra-high molecular weight cross-linked polyethylene (UHMWPE).
UHMWPE is so tough, it’s used in vehicle armor, climbing equipment, high-performance sails and suspension lines on parachutes. “This is potentially a 30-year knee because the technology reduces wear by 92 percent,” says Dr. Faucett.
Prior to UHMWPE, joint implants typically lasted about 15 years. If someone was a candidate at age 50, it was usually recommended that he or she wait as long as possible. Otherwise, the patient would have to have a new implant at age 65. With today’s advanced technology and the multi-disciplinary, supportive approach to joint replacement at GW Hospital, patients can continue on with their lives, with as little interruption as possible.
“The alternative is not to be active; you can’t run with a cane,” says Dr. Faucett. “Once people realize they can’t do the activities they are dedicated to, many choose joint replacement.”