James Jenkins, who is in his 40s, had been suffering extreme pain from the erosion of cartilage in his knee joint

Abu Dhabi: An American expat in Abu Dhabi has benefitted from a unique robot-assisted surgery that partially replaced his knee joint.

James Jenkins had been suffering from the erosion of cartilage in his knee joint, which led to extreme pain. After having lived an active lifestyle, which included daily runs and football sessions, Jenkins, who is now in his forties, was distraught about the discomfort that was forcing him to scale back on his physical activity.

Active life

“Before I moved to the UAE, I was in the US Marine Corps, which demands a very active lifestyle. I continued that lifestyle, and enjoyed doing cross-fits and triathlons [even after I moved to the UAE],” Jenkins told Gulf News.

He began feeling discomfort in his knee about five years ago, and was able to manage it. But about three years down the line, the knee began feeling even more wobbly and unstable.

Already relying on painkillers to manage the pain, Jenkins approached specialists at Healthpoint Hospital in Abu Dhabi.

Jenkins had the surgery in January Image Credit: Supplied

Cartilage eroded

A thorough assessment then revealed that the cartilage in his patellofemoral joint, which connects the long bone in the thigh known as the femur to the kneecap or patella, had eroded completely.

“[Jenkins] is in his mid-forties and leads a highly active lifestyle. He used to run every day, play football, and go on hikes. These symptoms [of discomfort in his knees] affected his quality of life significantly. As an active individual, he felt incapacitated,” said Dr Sammy Hanna, consultant orthopaedic hip and knee surgeon at Healthpoint.

Jenkins was prescribed physiotherapy, and topical medications to manage the pain. He even took on yoga. But these methods proved ineffective.

Knee replacement

This was when the medical team at Healthpoint suggested he undergo a robot-assisted partial knee replacement. Unlike a full knee replacement, which only last 15 years, a partial one does not need upkeep. The robot-assisted surgery also allows for an accurate placement of the implant, which is essential to the patient’s recovery, and the small incision made for the procedure heals quicker than the one made for a full knee replacement.

“What was appealing to me about this was it wasn’t the full replacement [which prevents people from being very active afterwards]. I also didn’t want to let the knee get worse till I needed the total knee replacement,” Jenkins said.

Quick recovery

He underwent the 1.5-hour surgery in January, and was discharged from hospital withing two days’ time.

“I was moving around my apartment with a crutch literally the next day. I also went back to work the next week. I have now been working to get the range of motion back in physical therapy. I am back in the gym a little bit. I missed UAE triathlon season this year, but I hope to not think about my knee any more in a few months,” Jenkins said.

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Why partial replacement

“Partial knee replacements are a very good option for very active individuals. For them, a full knee replacement [may not be a good fit because] a full knee replacement isn’t designed to allow people to run and perform a lot of sports. This partial knee replacement only addressed the affected part of [Jenkin’s] knee that had the arthritis, [without touching] most of his knee joint. The benefits were that the recovery was quicker, the scar is smaller, and then in the long-term, I expect him to go back to all the sporting activities he [once] used to enjoy,” Dr Hanna said.

“The robot-assisted technology allows is to ensure that the procedure is performed very accurately, which helps ensure its success and longevity. If you put the implants in the right place, the implant will last a very long time. Hopefully, this will last Jenkins for 15 to 20 years,” he explained.

The doctor said it is also important for patients to commit to physiotherapy after a knee replacement procedure, which plays a role in ensuring the success of the procedure.

“In a procedure like this, it is important for patients and surgeons to work together. The patient has to do their bit too in terms of physiotherapy, especially in the first four to six weeks. Jenkins has been a fantastic patient, and very committed, so we are on track here to get a very good result,” Dr Hanna said.