Taking the ache out of arthritic knees

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - If your knee is damaged by arthritis or injury, simple activities can turn into chronic pain.  But, a total knee replacement can be the treatment option you need to get moving again without hurting.

60-year-old Mary Dargin lived with severe pain in her knee for two years.  "It was horrible," she says, "I mean the pain was horrible."

As a live-in caregiver for the elderly, Mary's health is key to ensuring her patient's health. But feeling uneasy about a potential knee surgery, Mary put up with the pain until it stopped her in her tracks.  "My knee locked up on me," says Mary, "and I mean it really locked to where I couldn't walk."

At the time, Mary was inside the home of her 85-year-old patient - who offered up her walker to help Mary move!  "I said, 'I'm supposed to be taking care of you,'" says Mary, "'and now you're trying to take care of me,' and she just laughed and said, 'well, it's just arthritis, we all have it.'"

But for Mary, that arthritis was severe and as Lake Charles Memorial Hospital's Dr. Dennis Walker explains, her knee cartilage had worn out to a point that she had bone-on-bone contact.  "The things that are obvious in her MRI are that it's bone-on-bone touching," says Dr. Walker, "and behind the knee cap there's large spurs and virtually no space left behind her knee."

Dr. Walker recommended a total knee replacement for Mary - a procedure that 600,000 Americans undergo each year.  "Total knee replacements are done primarily to reduce pain," says Dr. Walker, "it also helps with range of motion and sometimes with stability."

Knee replacements have been around since the 1960s, but the method and materials have changed significantly.  "The top of the lower leg and the end of the upper leg as well as the back of the knee cap are all replaced with either plastic or metal components," says Dr. Walker.

The diseased bone and cartilage are removed and the areas are then resurfaced with the new materials. Mary, who loves to get her feet moving to zydeco music, had her surgery in June...and made one arrangement with Dr. Walker.  "I told him that if I couldn't dance for Christmas, that he would have a terrible new year!"

Fortunately, Dr. Walker's new year is off to a great start and Mary's new knee is helping her once again do what she loves.

*For more information on a total knee replacement, tune in to Memorial Health e-Radio tomorrow at 1:00 P.M.  Dr. Walker will be talking about this procedure and other treatment options for knee pain.  Click here to listen.

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