Tavamani Thangaraj, 55, of Madurai, is arthritic and for three years has been suffering from a deformed right leg as she was scared of undergoing surgery.

“The pain started three years ago but in the last two years it became unbearable and I was afraid of going for surgery,” she said. At the insistence of her son, she agreed to meet orthopaedic surgeon A.K. Venkatachalam. On Wednesday, three weeks after surgery, she took the stairs without crutches as she walked into the hospital to meet presspersons.

She is one of the 40 persons who have opted for an implant made of oxidised zirconium. It has encouraged orthopaedic surgeons to consider recommending total knee replacement surgery to even younger patients.

Until recently most young patients were told to wait until they turned at least 60 years to undergo knee replacement surgery.

“Earlier we used to postpone surgery with the understanding that the [patients] would require another surgery as the usual implants then in use would give way due to wear and tear and then patient would need another surgery to replace the worn-out implant. The implant develops scratches due to wear and tear, causing the plastic insert provided for the implant to release particles into the bone structure. Oxidised zirconium, known by the brand name Oxinium, has changed all that,” said Dr. Venkatachalam, who consults at Chennai Meenakshi Multispeciality Hospital.

“The routinely used implants have nickel as an alloy. Some people are allergic to nickel but oxidised zirconium has an outer layer of zirconium metal, which is heated to over 500 degrees Celsius, giving it properties similar to ceramic,” he added.

It is known to withstand wear and tear for at least 25 years, and a patient can perform routine daily activities, including sports and dancing.

The minimally invasive surgery requires a five-inch incision and reduces hospital stay to five days. The surgery, which lasted two hours cost Rs.2.64 lakh. The cost of the implant is Rs.1.07 lakh.

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