Judging by her acting head shots, which show a gleaming smile, you would never know that Barbara Flynn is in excruciating pain.
A drunk driver hit her nearly 30 years ago, leaving the 52-year-old suffering from post traumatic arthritis of the knees, which has made her become increasingly bowlegged. The pain killers no longer help.
"It's got to get better than this," Flynn says. "It really does."
Enter Dr. Giles Scuderi, the associate chief of adult knee reconstruction at Beth Israel Medical Center, who is about to install Barbara with two cutting-edge artificial knees.
News 2's Paul Moniz reports that the Food and Drug Administration approved LPS-Flex Knee Prosthesis which allows patients up to 155 degrees of motion, nearly as much as natural knees.
Each year, 250,000 Americans undergo knee replacements, considered a surgery of last resort, in part because patients fear stiff knees following the operation.
With aging baby boomers undergoing knee replacement surgeries, the new implant's advantages over the old surgery's are significant.
The knees last an average of 20-years because the new model reduces or eliminates any grinding and patients can redo their surgery only if their underlying bones are strong enough.
So far, only 40 of these new implants have been performed in the United States. Beth Israel Medical Center is the only New York City hospital performing the procedure, which is covered by most insurance plans. Others are California's UCLA Medical Center and Rancho Mirage and Duke Medical Center in North Carolina.
Dr. Scuderi warns your knees must be flexible to be a good candidate.
"I like to tell my patients your pre-operative motion may dictate your post-operative motion," he says.
Doctors use an epidural to deaden the patient's sensations below the waist before administering heavy sedation.
After wrapping the legs in a tourniquet, doctors open the skin. They saw the old knee off and a new metal and polyethylene knee is cemented on.
Recovery could take between six and 12 weeks and complications from the major surgery may arise, such as infection and loosening of the implant.
Dr. Scuderi says his success rate is about 95 percent with patients able to enjoy walking, swimming and playing tennis again but he cautions the implant may not be suitable for everyone's favorite activities.
"This is not a knee for patients who need to run and jump," he says.
Before her surgery, Barbara Flynn told News 2's Paul Moniz she is more than happy to settle for "normal."
"I'm looking forward to being able to walk again," she says, "maybe even take some dance lessons, just to be able to get on with my life without pain. That'll be great."
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