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For Women In “Knee”-d of a Replacement or Two?
The Harold-October 9, 2007

Donna Bonewell is a positive-thinking person.  Autumn has just arrived and the long months of winter are looming.  Yet, her thoughts are focused on spring.  “I can’t wait,” she says. That's because her green thumb is itching to plant, prune and perk up her gardens - something she missed doing this past season. Why?  It certainly wasn't for lack of desire, time or energy. Rather, it was the pain in both of Bonewell's knees that kept her from tending to her zinnias and zucchini. Arthritis in both knees was the specific cause of her pain, stiffness and swelling. 

Affecting nearly 40 million Americans, it is the number one cause of chronic disability in the U.S. “Arthritis is the biggest enemy of our knees and can be caused by injury, disease or the passage of time," explains George Verghese, MD. "It damages and wears away the cartilage in the knee. When the cartilage deteriorates, the bones of the knee grind against each other, typically causing severe pain."  Which is precisely the situation that Bonewell was in before she turned to Dr. Verghese for Zimmer* Gender Solutions™ High-Flex Knee replacement.  It is the first and only implant that is anatomically shaped to conform to women's knees.  Not only was Bonewell the first patient in the area to have this gender‑specific knee replacement (September 2007 at Provena St. Mary's Hospital in Kankakee), Dr. Verghese was the first surgeon on the local front to complete it.

"Over the past 11 months, I had tried several types of treatments including lifestyle changes and medications without success,", Bonewell recalls.  'All I wanted was to be able to live pain-free, to have my life back so that I could do the things that I enjoy.” Nearly two-thirds of the more than 400,000 annual knee replacement patients in the U.S. are women and that number continues to increase annually. Until 2006, all knee replacement× implant designs were based on an average size of both women's and men's knees combined. "These replacements were either too large or too small for most women. There was a great need for an 'in-between' size and shape," Dr. Verghese notes.

As more women began receiving knee implants, orthopedic surgeons started recognizing the anatomical differences in alignment, soft tissues and ligament balance between the knees of women and men and in the restrictions of the available implants. They found that they often needed to make adjustments to the implant to accommodate for these differences, but their ability to make traditional replacements conform precisely to women's knees was limited. "Women's knees are more trapezoidal and they're more delicate and tapered in the front than the male knee which is boxier and square," Dr. Verghese explains. "And because of the width of women's hips relative to their height, their limbs are set at a different angle. Clearly, one size and shape of implant did not fit everyone." The design of the Gender Solutions Knee is based on these differences in anatomy and allows for a better fit, higher flexion and more natural movement of the kneecap.  Compared to other knee implants, its unique shape and size have a thinner profile and are specially contoured for women. "It fits the front of a woman's knee more naturally without any overhang on the bone and potential pressure or damage to surrounding ligaments and tendons. The angle of the kneecap tracking is much more in line with the female limb, too," Dr. Verghese points out.  "The key is that the Gender Solutions Knee is shaped to the woman and not the other way around. "The Gender Solutions Knee is proportionally contoured to the entire bone to provide a more precise fit. It is thinner in shape in the front so the knee replacement more appropriately matches the natural female anatomy. And, it was designed to function more like a woman's natural knee," he continued.

Importantly, Dr. Verghese' preserves the entire quadriceps muscle doing the entire surgery with the muscle moved to the side and not cutting into the muscle like most standard operations. This step aids and speeds recovery.  Bonewell was out of the hospital three days after her surgery compared to the typical five- to seven-day stay.

"It was truly amazing," Bonewell says. "My knees feel great now, and I'm looking forward to getting back to gardening in the spring. I would absolutely recommend that any woman who is experiencing knee pain look into the new Gender Solutions Knee. And, don't wait.  I'm getting my life back to what it used to be." Zimmer is a worldwide leader in joint replacement solutions.

Benefits of Gender-Specific Knee Replacement Surgery

  • Less post-operative pain
  • Shorter hospital stay (as little as one to two days)
  • Faster recovery period
  • Quicker return to work and daily activities

When Is It Time for Knee Replacement?
Knee replacement may be an option when non‑surgical interventions, such as medication and physical therapy, no longer help relieve the pain. Your primary care physician or an orthopedic surgeon can help you determine when it is time for knee replacement surgery.

Knee replacement is considered when:

  • Joint damage is visible on X-ray.
  • Episodes of pain, swelling, and stiffness in the knee are prevalent.
  • Persistent pain and disability interfere with daily life activities.
  • Pain is not relieved by non‑surgical alternatives.
  • Mobility is extremely limited.



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