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Spring 2008

Surgical Strides Improve Repair of Bones and Joints

Improvements in both technique and technology have led to significant advances in treatments to repair shattered bones. Similarly, joint replacement has evolved and benefited from innovations in materials and surgical techniques. There once was a clear divide between these two surgical worlds, but in some cases those lines are blurring or even overlapping, enabling surgeons to better manage complex scenarios, says UCLA orthopaedic surgeon Benjamin C. Bengs, M.D. “Orthopaedic surgeons are realizing that trauma repair and joint replacement are, in fact, complementary aspects of the same spectrum of musculoskeletal reconstruction,” he says. “Both disciplines attempt to relieve pain, restore mobility and anatomy and ‘heal’ the orthopaedic patient.”

Replacing arthritic hip and knee joints has become fairly routine, providing pain relief, increased mobility and improved quality of life for tens of thousands of patients. With today’s less-invasive procedures that employ smaller incisions than in the past, new materials and alternative weight-bearing surfaces, and improvements to post-operative pain-management protocols, patients are more comfortable, and rehabilitation is improved.

In more complicated cases, however, such as a joint replacement when there has been a traumatic fracture near a previously replaced joint, the use of next-generation internalfixation techniques and reconstructive implants that were developed to repair broken bones are enabling surgeons to “restore human anatomy in situations that would have been near impossible only a decade ago,” Dr. Bengs says. “These new devices have dramatically enhanced the surgeon’s ability to repair damaged or weakened bone.”

Preliminary evidence indicates that today’s replacement joints can be expected to last 12 to 20 years—and as more data accumulate, perhaps even longer—Dr. Bengs says.

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