Annually, more than 600,000 knee joint replacement surgeries are performed in the United States. With 150 possible device choices for each surgery, every manufacturer is looking for ways to differentiate their product. Some have introduced new materials. Others try refinements in shape. Better fit of an implanted knee joint usually translates into better function and less pain and discomfort for the patient. So, it’s no surprise that some manufacturers would try to differentiate their product by creating and marketing a knee joint designed specifically for women.
“Women do have anatomical differences from men that affect the knee joint,” says Dr. Pat Denton, of McLeod Orthopedics Florence. “Size is obviously one difference, but there are other gender variations, such as shape and how much pressure is exerted. Since knee joint replacements already come in a range of sizes, the real question is: Will a device designed specifically for women perform better than the unisex models?”
And the Answer Is…
Two studies examined the issue. One study looked at whether there was any difference between men and women, generally, in the outcomes of total knee replacement surgery. The report concluded that there was no consistent difference in outcomes between men and women receiving traditional knee replacements. Put another way,women do not seem to suffer from receiving a replacement NOT designed specifically for their gender.
Another study followed 85 women with knee replacements for 2 years after surgery. Each woman had both knee joints replaced – one with a standard replacement and the other with a “female-specific” device
Testing showed no statistical difference in range of motion, pain and overall patient satisfaction between the two types of knee joint. So, in the short-term, it seems that there is no significant benefit to a gender-specific joint replacement, as long as the correct size is used and the surgery is successfully accomplished.
However, most patients are hoping to get 10 – 20 years or more out of their replacement joint. So, until a study can look at many years of use, we won’t really know if there is a difference over the long term.
Final Thought. Each patient and knee is unique. Each surgeon selects implants that they consider the best for the individual patient. Conversations with your orthopedic surgeon will determine which types of replacements and surgery is most appropriate for your situation.
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Sources include: McLeod Health, Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Harvard Health, Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Orthopedics