Health News Review

So I’m watching the evening network TV news the other night – I know, silly me – and I see this commercial pop up that visualizes artificial knee joint replacement surgery like peeling an apple.

Now part of the ad pitch is that this is for “partial knee replacement.”

You know what?  Partial or not, there’s no knee replacement surgery that is akin to peeling an apple, which I can do in my kitchen without anesthesia – if I do it correctly.

It’s a creative commercial, but too cute for comfort when dealing with an important surgical decision in one’s life. It drew me in the way it may have drawn in many other viewers.  I may choose to pursue knee replacement surgery someday (maybe some day soon if my once-torn ACL in one knee and torn meniscus in the other knee keep barking at me).  But I’m going to want more than marketing wizardry to convince me of any given device or any given approach.

The ads get cute with the young ages of the people depicted.  Yes, there are young people with knee arthritis and, of those, there is a smaller subset whose arthritis is so unbearable that they may consider knee surgery.  But do they make up the majority of candidates for the surgery – as these ads might suggest?

The trend of direct-to-consumer joint replacement marketing has become clearly well-established, and so has the trend of marketing these devices to younger and younger people.  They’re about to become patients.  Many of them are not patients yet.  They will be.

A brief review of the literature – and, granted, some of this is several years old (but also no older than some of the references the device company posts on its website) – produces clear caveats. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive literature review; it simply is meant to remind consumers that ads depicting apple peeling and young patients don’t tell the whole story.  Prospective patients may not be told things like the following:

See some of our past posts on issues related to this trend:



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Marilynn Larkin posted on May 3, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I had meniscus repair last year with a great surgeon and was back in action in a hip hop showcase 2.5 months later. BUT, the pain I experienced the day after surgery (I had never had surgery before) was worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. And I had to go to the gym several times a week to regain range of motion. Then it took a number of months to strengthen the leg to the point where both legs are know the same size. So, this is a real procedure that affects your life–and it’s not even knee replacement of any sort. Moreover, sadly I learned that another woman had the same surgery a few weeks after I did and a clot formed (you’re supposed to take an aspirin a day for several days after surgery)–and she died. So NO surgical procedure should be marketed as though it’s simple, risk free and easy to recover from–all depends on the surgeon, the person and sometimes serendipity.

Greg Pawelski posted on May 6, 2013 at 9:22 am

All implants undergo physiological changes after implantation. The earliest and probably clinically most important step is the “race for the surface,” a contest between tissue cell integration and bacterial adhesion to that same surface.

On contact, body fluids immediately coat all surfaces with a layer of host material, primarily serum proteins and platelets. Adherence progresses to aggregation of microorganisms on the surface of the foreign body, forming a Biofilm.

Supposedly, sophisticated prevention strategies have been developed during the past two decades to lower the risk of infectious complications in implant surgery. However, the treatment of such an infection is poorly standardized, resulting in a number of patients with orthopedic device-related infections.