New technology offers hope for knee replacement surgery

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PHOENIX -- The number of knee replacement surgeries has more than tripled in the last decade, but now there is a new approach more and more doctors are using to give patients custom knees.

Despite orthoscopic surgery and several injections, Norm Lytle's left knee wasn't improving. He says he hasn't been the same since he tore his meniscus a few years ago.

"I used to walk the lake every morning and I can't do that," Lytle said. "It's just sore and always swollen and at some point you can't keep draining it."

So Lytle knew he couldn't put it off any longer. He needed a knee replacement.

Lytle went into the operation hopeful.

"He said it was less invasive and probably recovery time was a little faster and as far as the knee replacement itself, there was a lot of pre-op stuff they could do," Lytle said.

Lytle is talking about what's called the Signature Knee Replacement. It's new technology at Arizona Orthopaedic Associates at Gateway, giving surgeons an edge when preparing for the operation.

Instead of using a two dimensional X-ray to prep for surgery, Dr. Michael Wilmink has his patients undergo a MRI or CT scan.

"The images are uploaded into a system," Wilmink said. "I am able to go into the system and play around with this model of the knee. I can take it and rotate it three dimensional in space. There are different sizes of the components, different variations and once I hit the approval, the actually templates are made.

"This is something that is going to help us make our incision smaller, make it less invasive, less damage to the underlying anatomy," Wilmink continued.

Carolyn Hunt got the Signature Knee Replacement on her left knee almost a year ago.

"At two weeks, I left the house and went out to eat. At two and a half weeks, I was playing the organ again," she said.

While every patient's recovery time is different, Hunt says it feels natural.

"I can't even tell that I have replacements," she said. "I never think about it as having an artificial in my knee."

"I think that is the biggest advantage of the signature system is that we are restoring that patient's unique anatomy," Wilmink said.

For more information about the Signature Knee Replacement, contact Arizona Orthopaedic Associates at 690 N. Cofco Center Court, Suite 290, Phoenix, AZ 85008, 602-631-3161 or visit