Why the Demand for Specialist Knee Surgeons in Gauteng is Growing
In fact, it is not just in Gauteng, or any of the other South African provinces, that the demand for specialist knee surgeons has been growing over the last four or five decades. This is a worldwide phenomenon. There are a number of possible explanations for this growth, but it appears that much of the blame for the increased prevalence of ailing joints may be associated with the post-industrial lifestyle, given a 14-fold increase when compared with the incidence during the early-industrial era.
In the healthy individual, joints such as those in the hip, knee, and shoulder are shielded against wear and tear by a combination of the lubricating effect of synovial fluid and a protective coating of cartilage on the articulating surfaces. In past years, the need for attention from one of the specialist knee surgeons, in Gauteng or elsewhere, would have been largely repair damage caused by physical injury in subjects of all ages, while that caused by wear and tear was almost entirely a problem encountered among the elderly patients.
Those aged 65 and over still represent the majority of those requiring a partial or total joint replacement. This, however, is a demographic group that has expanded markedly; a result of the many advances in applied medical science that have led to a steady increase in longevity, particularly among the populations of more developed countries.
It is, however, not just a growing elderly population that is responsible for the increased pressure on specialist knee surgeons in Gauteng and the rest of the nation. As a nation whose citizens love to participate in a wide variety of sporting activities, it is hardly surprising that the incidence of sport-related injuries is also quite high. Add to this the rather disturbing fact that South Africa has one of the highest incidences of road traffic accidents in the world, and it is not too hard to find sufficient explanation for the heavy workload normally faced by typical orthopaedic departments around the country.
The wear and tear mentioned earlier is most commonly the result of osteoarthritis. It causes erosion of a joint’s normally smooth articulating surfaces that results in a painful grinding action. Once prescription painkillers and steroids fail to alleviate the pain, as elsewhere, a specialist knee surgeon in Gauteng will need to undertake a repair procedure, where this appears to be an effective long-term solution, or to insert a prosthetic joint, where this is not the case.
Today, a significant and steadily expanding number of the patients presenting with severe damage due to osteoarthritis are still in their 50s and some are even younger. Many researchers have suggested this increase may be linked to obesity and to the added strain placed by extra mass upon the knee joint in particular. In turn, others have cited the effects of a diet dominated by processed foods and their dubious chemical additives as the explanation for this obesity epidemic.
It is extremely fortunate, therefore, that the work of specialist knee surgeons in Gauteng and in the other provinces of South Africa has benefited from the multiple advances achieved in the design and composition of prosthetic joints, as well as the means by which they are secured. In parallel, they are also benefitting from the development of the safer and more-effective surgical procedures that are now widely employed for the implantation of these prostheses.
Since the first attempt to repair the head of a damaged femur with one fashioned from ivory and its limited success, arthroplasty, the technique of joint replacement, has undergone a quantum leap with the introduction of hybrid prostheses combining polyethylene and metals, such as stainless steel, titanium and other inert metal alloys, as well as ceramics.
The use of dental cement and screws that were once the sole option for specialist knee surgeons in Gauteng, no longer presents a restriction. With the advent of modern prostheses composed of alloys with a sponge-like structure that designed to encourage fusion of the prosthesis with the growing bone tissue beneath, this has greatly improved long-term stability.
In addition, the increasing use of arthroscopic procedures that require only a tiny keyhole incision or two is serving to avoid much of the trauma resulting from more radical surgery, thus speeding up recovery for many patients of the specialist knee surgeons in Gauteng, including those who provide a full range of general and specialised orthopaedic services at the Life Wilgers Hospital in Pretoria.