New Jersey Woman Decides She’s “Old Enough” for Total Knee Replacement

NEW YORK—June 16, 2009 

On June 17, 2009, a live webcast will show Hospital for Special Surgery orthopedic surgeon Steven Haas, M.D., chief of the Knee Service, performing a minimally invasive total knee replacement procedure on 55-year-old Mary Kiefer. Mrs. Kiefer has waited eight years for this surgery, a decision she now regrets.

“I bought into the stigma that I shouldn’t be having total knee replacement so young,” said Mrs. Kiefer. “I’ve lived in pain longer than I should have because I kept waiting to be ‘old enough.’”

Eight years ago, when Mrs. Kiefer was 47, she sat down and experienced a sharp pain in her right knee. A local orthopedist diagnosed her with a torn meniscus and performed arthroscopic surgery to remove the damaged cartilage from her knee. Without the joint’s natural cushioning, the bones of her knee were now rubbing together. Though she was still in pain, her orthopedist told her to wait as long as possible before having total knee replacement surgery.

Besides thinking she was too young for knee replacement surgery, Mrs. Kiefer also had doubts based on one of her sisters’ experience. After her sister’s total knee replacement at a local hospital, Mrs. Kiefer saw how hard the recovery was, so she tried other methods – injections and physical therapy – to ease the pain, but nothing worked.

As she learned to live with the pain, Mrs. Kiefer gradually gave up the activities she enjoyed doing, such as gardening, golf, hiking in the Catskills with her girlfriends, and even swimming because the kicking hurt. Eventually, she and her husband had to sell their colonial style house for a ranch because she couldn’t go up and down the stairs. “In that house, I would have to sit down on the stairs and go up backwards because it hurt too much to climb them,” said Mrs. Kiefer.

“I’m stiff in the morning when I wake up and am basically living on anti-inflammatories,” said Mrs. Kiefer. “I think twice before doing anything. The quality of my life has gone down so much.”

Two events convinced Mrs. Kiefer it was time for total knee replacement surgery. One was watching another sister have both of her knees replaced by Dr. Haas at Hospital for Special Surgery. In contrast to her first sister, Mrs. Kiefer saw how much easier her second sister’s recovery was. But when her knee didn’t bend one day and she fell hard enough to knock out a tooth, she said “enough.”

She hopes that people watching the webcast of her knee replacement surgery will learn from her and not wait as long as she did. “I was foolish for waiting so long. More and more people my age are having this surgery,” said Mrs. Kiefer. “I realized that my life was going by and I wasn’t in it; having this surgery will help me get my life back."

To view the webcast, scheduled for 6 p.m. ET, and learn more about total knee replacement surgery at Hospital for Special Surgery go to www.hss.edu/webcast. Also, follow the live Twitter coverage of the surgery by WCBS –TV medical reporter Max Gomez @wcbstv.

About Hospital for Special Surgery
Founded in 1863, Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) is a world leader in orthopedics, rheumatology and rehabilitation. HSS is nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics and No. 4 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2008), and has received Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. In 2008 and 2007, HSS was a recipient of the HealthGrades Joint Replacement Excellence Award. A member of the NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System and an affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS provides orthopedic and rheumatologic patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center. All Hospital for Special Surgery medical staff are on the faculty of Weill Cornell Medical College. The hospital's research division is internationally recognized as a leader in the investigation of musculoskeletal and autoimmune diseases. Hospital for Special Surgery is located in New York City and online at www.hss.edu.

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