Lifewatch: Female Knee Replacement

WILMINGTON -- Everyday, more than 1,000 people in the United States undergo knee replacement surgery, most of them are women.

Now, there are new knees designed specifically for women.

Women have a larger Q angle, while men have a larger patella.

In 2005, 335,000 women had knee replacement surgery.  That number almost doubles the number of men who had the surgery.

"My biggest concern was would I be able to dance like I used to," said Ernestine Banks, a knee replacement patient.

Ernestine was once a go-go girl at the wreck bar in the Castaways Hotel.  Her new knee hasn't slowed her downs.

"Oh yeah, I've been dancing. I've been dancing a lot," said Ernestine.

She also rides with the Black Divas on Wheels.

This untraditional woman didn't get a traditional implant.

"I was happy about the fact. That I would have a knee especially for women," said Ernestine.

The Zimmer Gender Solutions Knee is slightly thinner and more narrow, claiming to offer women a better fit.

"Traditionally there was sort of a one size fits all concept to have all knees sort of fit everybody and they actually chose a masculine knee shape," said Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Marc Umlas.

To Dr. Umlas, the gender knee makes sense.

"The hope is that by putting the correct knee shape on the correctly shaped knee that will result in more normal function and a better response of the patient," said Dr. Umlas.

Proper placement and alignment are crucial to the success of this surgery.

"I do know that there's been studies recently that have shown women after knee replacements haven't traditionally done as well as men after knee replacements. I think this is one of the things they are trying to do to address that," said Dr. Umlas.

A female implant doesn't look dramatically different, and some doctors question if it's just a trend.  But, for Ernestine, it has made a dramatic difference.

"There's no pain like I used to have there's no swelling or any of that stuff anymore," said Dr. Umlas.

Gender specific implants are so new that there haven't been any studies performed to look at the long term success.

Two doctors in the Wilmington area perform this type of surgery.  For more information contact: Dr. Jack Bowling or Dr. Scott Q. Hannum.

Reported by Kristy Ondo