Custom knee replacements new option for Veterans - VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System
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VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System

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Custom knee replacements new option for Veterans

A man massaging his left knee

Veterans eligible for a knee replacement can now elect for a customized 3D procedure at Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado.

By Terri Rorke
Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Since the 1970s, standard knee replacements have helped countless patients get back on their feet. But what if there was a customized option using implants specifically designed for your body and a faster recovery time?

Some patients, like Air Force Veteran Darin Levstik, are choosing custom total knee replacements now offered at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center (RMR) because it’s “one unique to my person.”

After experiencing years of pain, progressive cartilage wear and lack of mobility caused by an injury in 2004, Levstik found minimal relief with the aid of a knee brace, periodic steroid shots and synthetic knee joint fluid injections. Later in 2019, he explored potential solutions for his everyday symptoms with RMR’s orthopedic team and ultimately decided the benefits of a custom knee replacement would far outweigh the standard option.

“I chose the custom fit over the standard replacement care due to the reduced bone loss that the custom unit provided, as well as the fact that the custom fit was just that, a custom fit.”

Ian Dickey
Dr. Ian Dickey

This revolutionary technology was first brought to VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System (ECHCS) in 2019 by Dr. Ian Dickey—one of only two surgeons in the Denver-metro area offering this custom procedure to patients.

Instead of using “off-the-shelf” implants that can only guarantee a close fit”, Dickey takes images from a CT scan to 3D print a custom piece of hardware thats specific to a patients anatomy.

According to Dickey, “It’s a 3D solution for a 3D problem.” Not only does a custom total knee replacement provide improved alignment and mobility for patients, but they can also expect to recover faster with overall satisfaction increased by 25-40 percent.

While two-thirds of patients are reportedly happy with standard knee replacements, Dickey challenges the narrative for some 790,000 Americans who undergo knee replacements each year. He asks, "Why would you want to have to fit a knee replacement; why wouldn't the knee replacement fit you?"

Finally, in June 2020, Levstik underwent his custom total knee replacement and woke up with a new left knee that aligns with his hip and ankle—something that a standard knee replacement doesn’t guarantee.

"Within 24 hours I was already moving around the corridors with a walker and had been instructed on home care procedures,” he said.

Side-by-side comparison of custom 3D replacement parts and traditional replacement knee replacement
Compare and contrast of custom 3D replacement parts (left) and traditional replacement knee replacement (right).

Over the course of the next four weeks, Levstik worked with Golden VA Clinic’s Physical Therapy team and continues to stay active at a local recreation center, following his physical therapist’s recommendations for strength-building and stretching exercises.

While the entire treatment process has been a learning experience for Levstik, he is up for the challenge.

“The goal is to be able to confidently run once my knee structures tighten up from the original injuries.”

There are no special candidates for custom total knee replacement surgery. Regardless of age, if you are eligible for a standard knee replacement, you can elect for a custom total knee replacement. Ask your Patient Aligned Care Team today about how this customized technology can improve your life.


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