Lifewatch: Resurfacing knees

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

**Warning: parts of the video clip to the right are a little graphic**

(WECT) - In the average lifetime, most people will take up to 10,000 steps a day, or walk 115,000 miles.  Most cars wear out by then, so why shouldn't your knees?

More than 400,000 people will need knee replacements this year, but before they go for the total trade-in, there's a new option that will keep younger knees in place longer.

Melissa Link has suffered sever knee pain since she was 14 years old, and doctors said there was little they could do.

"He laughed at me and he told me my knees were bad and I wasn't old enough for knee replacements, that was just the way my life was going to be," said Melissa.

Orthopedic Surgeon Anthony Miniaci spent ten years inventing a device to help people like Melissa.

"This is a resurfacing replacement," said Dr. Miniaci.

Surgeons make a three-centimeter incision to place the metal implant.  Unlike total replacement surgery, the knee cap stays in place and no muscle is cut.  The new approach removes very little bone.  Patients are in the hospital for one day instead of up to ten.

"What we've done here is that we actually replace your own anatomy so that once this is all healed and done, the function and range of motion of your knee should be exactly the same it was before," said Dr. Miniaci.

For the first time in more than a decade, Melissa's knees are pain free.

"It's changed my life," said Melissa.  "It's opened up being able to live life. You know, 29 years old is too young to have arthritis."

This procedure gives younger patients another option when stem cells and cartilage fail to help heal knees.

Dr. Miniaci said he hopes the partial resurfacing can ward off total knee replacement for 15-20 years.