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Less-invasive knee replacement surgery aids women

Women are notorious for taking care of those they love, but often lose sight of taking care of themselves. Many times, women unknowingly put their health at risk by ignoring certain telltale symptoms.

A study by the University of Delaware in 2008 seemed to reinforce this. It found that women with osteoarthritis , the most common form of arthritis that occurs in the hands, spine, hips and knees, typically waited longer to undergo knee replacement surgery than men. Because of this, women in the study had a much more advanced stage of osteoarthritis , often end-stage where the cartilage is completely broken down causing the bones in the knee to rub against each other.

Researchers in the study speculated that women were able to tolerate pain better than men or were ignoring many of the long-term effects of serious knee problems such as joint pain, stiffness, swelling, cracking noises with joint movements and, especially, decreased function.

A study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) released this year shows that more middle-aged women are choosing to have knee replacement surgery , a sign that they may be taking their symptoms more seriously. It found that knee arthroplasty for women in the U.S. ages 45 to 64 increased 157 percent, from 16 per 10,000 people in 1997 to 42 per every 10,000 people in 2009.

The cause for the increase may be due to a couple of factors. First, patients are becoming more educated about the risks and benefits associated with knee replacement surgery . Innovations in orthopedics have led to better techniques and technology within just the past 15 years, so people may be more aware of these advancements. In addition, knee replacement surgery has become less invasive, requiring a shorter hospital stay, faster recovery, less pain and scarring and markedly improved function.

Knee replacement surgery is not the only option for these patients. Other treatments may include exercise, physical therapy, knee sleeves and braces, topical ointments, injections and medications. Consult with your physician as to which method is appropriate for you.

Dr. Edward Schlafly specializes in orthopedic surgery at St. Luke's Hospital . Call 314-576-7013 or visit his Physician Referral page.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on January 12, 2012.