This story presented a knee replacement system that is portrayed as greatly reducing recover time and discomfort. This information would be of interest to individuals with osteoarthritis of the knee who may be wondering about the options available for relief of their knee pain. This piece, however, failed to put this medical device in the context of other options available to patients and did not include hard facts, such as costs, the type of patients for whom it might be an option, or how long the device has been shown to last or how long it can be expected to last. This is the sort of information, along with some acknowledgement of other treatment options, that is valuable to consumers for decision making about knee replacement.
And CBS afforded plenty of time to discuss such important issues – a rare 5 1/2 minutes. But much of that time was devoted to weepy testimonials from a single patient.
Showing one patient standing and walking in the hospital post-op, and then on the golf course shortly thereafter, may not be representive of all patient experiences. We can’t know that because we are given no summary of other patient experiences.
In this, and other ways, this story ended up mired in a sand trap.
There was no mention of the costs associated with this type of knee replacement nor the expected lifespan for this device.
The patient in this story was presented as being pain free nearly immediately after surgery, without mention of any analgesic medication she may have been taking. This patient was also shown driving a golf ball 2 weeks after surgery, though again, it is not known whether this is a realistic expectation for a few, some, or most patients after this type of knee replacement.
There was no mention of potential harms resulting from this procedure.
There was no evidence presented other than this depiction of this single case. The suggestion is that the recovery anecdote of this one patient is typical, though no information was included to support this contention.
Blanket categorization of recovery from knee replacement surgery as long and painful is an example of disease mongering. People are different and so is their recovery from such surgery.
Comments from one patient and one surgeon were included in this piece. But there was no comment from any independent source. Since this television story ran an unusually long 5 1/2 minutes, there certainly was time to include data on the use of the device and input from other physicians. A single-source story on a topic like this is troubling.
Other than categorizing traditional knee replacement as requiring ‘a long and painful recovery period’ there was no mention of other treatment options for osteoarthritis of the knee.
This story did not include discussion about availability of this treatment or whether it was an FDA approved medical device. According to the company website, in 2004 there were more than 500 orthopedic surgeons trained in the use of this device. So it’s availability is limited. There was no mention that this particular type of knee replacement was not an option for all patients who were candidates for standard total knee replacement. Factors that may rule out some patients include variation in knee structure, prior surgery on the same knee, obesity, a recent history of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and other unstable medical conditions.
This surgical procedure is relatively new; the company website (Zimmer) mentioned that the first MIS Quad-Sparing total knee replacement was in February 2002. (Does 4 years qualify as ‘new’?)
It is a story about a less commonly used device for total knee replacement and as such would be of interest to those considering knee replacement.
We can’t be sure if this story relied solely or largely on a news release, although the lack of input from independent sources is a concern.