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In The News

Dr. Andrew Spitzfaden, St. Luke's Hospital

Returning to work after knee replacement

For many of us, working is a fact of life. It helps us achieve the rewards that enrich our lives and carry us through our retirement years. However, the dynamic has changed recently due to the economic headwinds that we've faced during the past few years.

For some, the hope of retiring at age 65 is not achievable, and they now face the reality of extending their working years. Because of this, many people feel that putting off a life-changing procedure like knee replacement is their only option in order to avoid time away from their jobs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 14 percent of women age 65 and older are still working. And it is during our 60s when the symptoms of knee arthritis may drastically increase.

A new study presented at an American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons conference found that 99 percent of women and 95 percent of men who elected to have total knee replacement surgery were able to return to work following the procedure. These numbers are quite encouraging because time taken off work after knee replacement has dropped significantly over the past decade due, in part, to technological advances and better rehabilitation.

Total knee replacement surgery involves removing and replacing the diseased parts of the knee joint with new, artificial parts. The muscles, tendons and ligaments are left in place around the knee to provide stability for the new joint. An artificial joint is usually made of metal (usually cobalt-chrome or titanium) and/or polyethylene plastic. A new joint may be fixed to existing bone using a special cement or through a "press fit" technique which allows existing bone to grow into the metal surface, locking it in place.

There are other options to knee replacement surgery including home exercises, physical therapy, over-the-counter or prescription medications, topical ointments, knee sleeves or braces and injections. Schedule an appointment with your physician to discuss which options are best for you.

Dr. Andrew Spitzfaden specializes in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine at St. Luke's Hospital. If you have knee or hip pain, register for a free class on total knee or hip replacement in 2013 by visiting the Classes and Events section or calling 314-542-4848.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on September 19, 2013.