March 8, 2019

Double-Knee Replacements Amaze Patient

UAMS Dr. Richard Evans explains a recent knee replacement surgery for Sue Cromer (left) of Fort Smith.

UAMS Dr. Richard Evans explains a recent knee replacement surgery for Sue Cromer (left) of Fort Smith.

Sue Cromer of Fort Smith knew it was time for knee replacements when she could no longer baby-sit her two youngest grandchildren at her daughters home.

“My daughter has a two-story house, and I couldn’t do the stairs,” said Sue, 64, a retired choir teacher. “I couldn’t walk without pain; if I did anything strenuous at all I would pay for it for days.”

She had put up with her osteoarthritis for 25 years after her doctor in Fort Smith advised her to tough it out as long as possible because techniques and materials for knee replacements are always improving.

When Sue decided it was time last spring, she was armed with several personal references on behalf of UAMS Dr. Richard Evans, chief of adult hip and knee reconstruction and among a handful of elite surgeons providing the very latest federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved knee replacements.

“Two people in my Sunday school class have had knee replacements by Dr. Evans, and they had really good experiences,” Sue said.

Her own experience couldn’t have been better. She was walking the night after her first knee replacement and again after the second replacement the next day. She had some pain the first three or four weeks, but it gradually got better.

“My recovery was fine,” she said three months after the surgeries. “Three weeks ago I mowed the lawn, and we have a big backyard. My knees were fine, but I was pretty tired.”

“I can do everything now that I couldn’t do before.”

The advances in knee replacement surgery and the benefits for patients amaze even him, Dr. Evans said.

“She’s barely three months out from surgery and already she has better results than most people would have had in a year or two not many years ago,” Dr. Evans said.

Advances have occurred in all phases of knee replacement. The night before a surgery, Dr. Evans uses images of a patients knee to perform the surgery on computer, ensuring that the new knee fits as it should and that everything goes as quickly and smoothly as possible in the operating room. Once in surgery, patients get an epidural rather than anesthesia that takes them completely under. The epidural enables the patient to get up and walk much more quickly, and it allows for the patients second knee replacement the following day.

In addition, patients today are getting knee replacements that will last them much longer than in years past. The joints used in Sues knees are made with composite materials including oxidized zirconium. More of these joints have been implanted by Dr. Evans than anyone else in Arkansas.

A new polyethylene component coupled with this oxidized zirconium implant were certified by the FDA in July to last 30 years, and Dr. Evans recently became the first to implant this FDA-certified component combination in Arkansas.

This is the only total joint on the planet that has that FDA certification, Dr. Evans said.

Other replacement joints generally last about 10-20 years, depending on wear.

Despite the 30-year certification knee replacements, Evans warned that extreme wear and tear can shorten the lifespan of all total joints.

“Today people are feeling so good after knee replacement surgery that they want to be almost too active some want to go running,” he said. “It’s a nice problem to have.”

Sue said she isn’t worried about wearing out her new knees.

She has already returned to the activities she loves. “My main physical activity is gardening,” she said.