By the time Elizabeth Phillips came to see Steven B. Haas, MD, both of her knees were severely damaged by arthritis. An avid marathoner, Ms. Phillips has been entering races since the 1970s. “In those days, running shoes did not exist. I ran my early marathons in sneakers from Woolworth’s. When someone asks me, ‘what made your knees so bad?’ I trace it to back then.”
Prior to meeting with Dr. Haas, Ms. Phillips had learned about minimally invasive knee replacement and felt that, given her activity level and desire to return to her work as quickly as possible, it was the only way to go. On May 14, 2004, Dr. Haas performed the procedure on both her knees. Within a month, Ms. Phillips was checking out – although not competing – the route of another mini marathon, walking right to the finish line, canes and all.
“I was thrilled,” she said. “Before surgery it was an effort to go four blocks. I’d walk to a bus stop and look for a fire hydrant to sit down on because I couldn’t stand for more than a minute."
In less than five weeks after bilateral, minimally invasive knee replacement surgery, Ms. Phillips was back at work and already able to walk the one and a half mile Central Park reservoir path - something she had not done in over a year. Today, she continues to pursue her interest in sports and works as a certified official for track and field, cross country, and road races in the New York area.
Ms. Phillips is not alone in her extraordinary results. Patients of Dr. Haas and his colleagues repeatedly bask in the freedom provided by new knees and the ease of recovery made possible by the newer, less invasive techniques.
“Traditionally, knee replacement was done through incisions that were about 8 to 12 inches long,” notes Dr. Haas. “Then, to get exposure to the knee, you would need to turn the kneecap.” Older instruments combined with technical aspects of the procedure were forcing surgeons to operate through this large incision. The new tools and techniques avoid this. “The implants are the same, but now we can do less cutting to the soft tissues deep around the knee,” adds Dr. Haas. “We can spread the muscle instead, and slide the kneecap out of the way. This avoids twisting of the tendons.”
Dr. Haas uses smaller instruments which allows him to make a shorter surgical incision and use a surgical approach that involves less trauma to the surrounding knee tissue. For patients, post-operative pain is much less and, on average, recovery is six weeks faster. Because there is less scarring, patients also achieve greater range of motion overall.