Inadequate or misleading information is the major reason for people landing late at hospitals for treating or replacing their arthritic knee joints. Knee joint replacement becomes the last resort to many arthritis patients because of poor information from the media or by word of mouth, according to U.S.-based knee and hip surgeon Chitranjan Singh Ranawat.
The surgeon, who operated on former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s knees, was in the city on Saturday to attend the Ganga Operative Arthroplasty Course 2013, an international joint replacement workshop at Ganga Hospital.
Dr. Ranawat told The Hindu that even most of those who came to know of the procedure were seized by the fear of surgery and post-surgical pain, mostly caused by wrong information.
“In India, awareness on knee joint replacement increased because of the surgery on the former Prime Minister. His condition generated a lot of awareness on the arthritic knee and the disability it can cause. From 5,000 till then, the number of joint replacement surgeries in the country now stands at 65,000 a year,” Dr. Ranawat said.
“This is estimated to go up to one lakh or 1.5 lakh in two to three years. We must first understand that arthritis is part of ageing, just like wrinkles on the face and greying of the hair. We should also realise that more people suffer arthritis because of the fact that they live longer. The possibility of arthritis increases with longevity,” he said.
Arthritis is a progressive disease. The progression can be managed by reducing weight, maintaining mobility and with medicines to reduce inflammation and pain.
On the cost of surgery, Dr. Ranawat pointed out that joint replacement surgeries were quality-of-life procedures. But, this should not serve as a reason to avoid government funding.
Chairman of Orthopaedics and Spine Surgery of Ganga Hospital S. Rajasekaran pointed out that the government funded treatment for heart diseases and cancer because patients could die without it. There was less focus on problems such as arthritic hip and knee because there was no mortality. Adequate funding should also be done for knee and hip joint replacements as living with pain and immobility could be as bad. The present government insurance cover for replacement surgery was inadequate.
On people opting for alternative systems of medicine to avoid surgery, Dr. Ranawat said this was again due to misrepresentation of facts either in the media or by word of mouth. There was no documentation for head-to-head comparison between procedures under allopathy and those of the alternative systems. Dr. Ranawat, whose research had led to improved versions of artificial joints, said his latest prosthetic knee joint would be launched soon. It would quicken recovery and improve knee mobility.
Explaining why research was important, he said the size of knee joints varied with the build of people of different countries, sometimes even the regions within one country.