Each year, hundreds of joint replacement procedures are performed. Most are due to arthritis in the knees and legs, but arthritis is also common in the hands and fingers. Now, doctors are replacing the smaller joints with more success.
Across the country, hip and knee replacements are routine, but smaller joint replacements have been more of a challenge.
"You're using your fingers and your joints all day long, so you have to think that the wear or the breakdown may be higher, may be faster," says Dr. Kathleen Robertson.
Now, these new artificial joints give people more mobility. They're made of the same material used in heart valves.
"We know that after your heart beats many, many millions of times a year, that those valves have not worn out. That's where the idea of the actual metal for this implant came from was because of the long track record."
Unlike typical silicone implants, the new implants withstand frequent wear and tear. Dr. Kathleen Robertson says that's crucial. They can help arthritis patients or patients who have suffered an injury, like Michael, who nearly lost his finger to a saw blade.
"It cut the bone completely in half, and it dropped the finger down to here. There was only a piece of skin right here holding it, holding it on," Michael says.
Or doctors saved his finger, but pain and limited mobility followed. The artificial joint helped.
"It's been a lot better. I have pain medicine, but I don't take it unless I really have to."
After nineteen months of rehab, he's gone back to his construction job.
"I've heard stories about other people cutting themselves, and I just didn't think it was going to happen to me. Be very careful when you're cutting with power saws because it can happen to anybody."
With his new joint, Michael is sure to take his own advice.
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