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A Less Invasive Knee Replacement Surgery

  • August 1, 2005
  • Number of views: 6005

For many people, knee pain secondary to arthritic disorders is a daily – and unwanted - occurrence. But the thought of total knee replacement surgery can be more discouraging than popping another over-the-counter pain pill. At Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Dr. Stephen Burnett, a Washington University orthopedic surgeon, offers an alternative to traditional knee replacement surgery – a minimally or less invasive quadriceps sparing total and unicompartmental knee replacement surgery.

Minimally invasive quadriceps sparing knee replacement surgery has several advantages to the traditional surgery. To better understand these advantages, it''s important to first understand how the knee works and how a knee replacement surgery is traditionally performed.

The knee is the largest joint in the body. It connects the upper leg bone (femur) to the lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) by ligaments and muscles. Articular cartilage covers the ends of the bones, absorbing shock and providing a smooth surface for movement. If arthritis wears down the cartilage or injury damages the joint, knee pain will occur.

When knee pain is so severe a person is unable to perform everyday tasks, despite physician-prescribed nonsurgical treatments or medicines, it may be time for total joint replacement surgery. In this procedure, physicians replace the ends of both bones in the damaged joint. For a total knee replacement surgery, the ends of the damaged femur and tibia are capped with artificial surfaces lined with metal and plastic. The components usually are secured to the bones with cement.

The minimally invasive, quadriceps sparing knee replacement surgery performed by Dr. Burnett uses the same, clinically proven implants but through a much smaller incision and without cutting through key tendons and muscles. In a traditional surgery, doctors would make a 12-inch incision down the front of the knee and the tendon and quadriceps muscle, which control bending of the knee. Dr. Burnett makes a smaller incision, anywhere between three and five inches. Instead of cutting the tendon and quadriceps muscle, Dr. Burnett separates them.

The advantages to this minimally invasive technique are:

  • a much smaller incision
  • the quadriceps muscle is "spared" (it isn''t cut)
  • shorter hospital stay
  • faster rehabilitation
  • less blood loss during surgery.

"Helping my patients get back on their feet and enjoying their daily activities is one of the reasons I enjoy my job as an orthopedic surgeon," says Dr. Burnett. "Performing a minimally invasive, quad-sparing knee replacement helps my patients get back to their lives even faster."

Burnett completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry with highest honors at the University of British Columbia, Canada and received his medical degree from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. He then did a residency in orthopedic surgery at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

He received further training in total joint replacement during his fellowship at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. He returned to Canada to complete a combined research and Clinical Fellowship at the University of Western Ontario.

He joined the faculty at Washington University in 2003 as an Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery. His practice interests include surgery of the hip and knee, including joint replacement, alternative bearing surfaces in the young adult hip and knee replacement population, and less invasive surgical techniques of the hip and knee. He has a special interest in the management of infection involving joint replacements of the hip and knee.

For more information about orthopedic services at Barnes-Jewish Hospital or for a referral to Dr. Burnett, call 314-TOP-DOCS (314-867-3627) or toll free 866-867-3627.

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