New joint replacement technique for the elbow

March 11, 2014

There is a newly-approved artificial joint, the first new one in decades.

61-year-old Donna VanCott of Macungie, Pa., says she feels no pain in her right arm for the first time in three years.

That's when her ordeal started: on a visit to Colorado when she was visiting friends at a dark home.

"I was reaching down the wall, trying to find the light switch, and the next step I took was to their basement floor," said Donna.

Among other injuries, she shattered her right elbow.

"I can't even tell you how much pain. It was incredible," she said.

To fix her bones temporarily, doctors placed an implant. It wore out after a year.

It was the same with a second implant.

Then Dr. Matthew Ramsey of the Rothman Institute at Jefferson suggested elbow replacement surgery with a new prosthetic he helped developed.

He says the problem with older versions is in active people the replacement can wear down within 6 to 10 years and patients often complain of more problems.

"They would say, 'My elbow is killing me. It is squeaking. It's getting weak. It's more painful,'" said Ramsey.

The new device has additional and thicker plastic all around. Vitamin E is also infused in the plastic, which helps prevent it from breaking down over time.

"The biggest benefit is longevity," said Ramsey.

Donna is now 6 weeks post-surgery. She is getting her mobility and strength back. She is also getting her life back.

She had to give up work and hobbies due to the pain, but now she is painting again.

"For me, it is truly a miracle. I cannot tell you what it is like to be out of pain after being in pain every day for 3 years," said Donna. "It is just amazing."

Donna is also looking forward to going back to work as a dental hygienist.

Dr. Ramsey helped develop the new device so he does get paid by the company that makes it. But he believes the new elbow replacement will last much longer than the older version.

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